Back once again is Austin’s Shearwater with its grandiose release The Great Awakening (Polyborus Records), and its first new release in 5 years. Words like grandiose are never used lightly and as it pertains to Shearwater, it’s well warranted. The album is HUGE and larger than life. The opening “Highgate” crescendos and then once again descends back down slowly coming to an end. Vocalist Jonathan Meiburg’s commanding vocal delivery alone is a force to be reckoned with, even with the quieter “No Reason,” it’s not overshadowed by the delicate instrumentation, caressing soundwaves and carefully delivering notes with precision. The strings, piano, and wind instruments are so subtle at times one would hardly notice but they do make their point. But it’s the majestic “Empty Orchestra” that grabs ones attention. The drums propel the track and Meiburg leads the way through arena sized number. The Great Awakening Is entrancing and marks Shearwater’s return with a bang!
Some things you have to patiently wait for. Things sometimes come at their own pace but in this case, it’s been what, 5 years? Yeah, it has. 5 years since the release of his self-titled debut, Dion Lunadon (A Place To Bury Strangers, D4, True Lovers) has finally released his sophomore album Beyond Everything (In The Red Records). With a new album and a new label, nothing has deterred Lunadon from his path. He’s still the garage rock-loving musician that aims to deliver song after song of what he loves.
Lunadon does seem to fuck with us all on the opening “Goodbye Satan,” an organ-driven, drum-machine 60s-like pop jam with cooing Four Seasons-like harmonies, but with guitars eventually embellishing the song, pumped on overdrive. But Lunadon’s not fooling anyone, that deep garage rock is embedded deep in his soul, there’s no doubt about that. Throughout the album, we receive an assortment of overdriven guitars, deep bass rhythms, and pummeling drums. But we also get compositions with a variety of sparseness throughout, allowing Lunadon to capitalize on empty space. It all begins with “By My Side,” a frantic punk delivery that’s unrelenting, pausing lead guitar for vocal howls and hushed deliveries but when it bursts, there are fruit flavors landing everywhere, utilizing his instruments to paint those varying splashes. “It’s The Truth” slows things down a bit but is just as abrasively captivating. There’s melody underneath it all and Lunadon’s hypnotic rhythm is a force to be reckoned with. The higher range of his voice is on the brink or cracking to pieces but it doesn’t, instead adding it the way it’s supposed to be: as another instrument. There’s strength all around the track.
If you really want to get to know Dion Lunadon, check “Screw Driver,” the track that’s thick with repetitive pummeling and either low register of his guitar or distorted bass. Either way, it’s magic filled with distorted guitars capitalizing on the melody. It’s a beast of a song that never lets up and honestly, why would anyone want it to? But it’s “Too Hard To Love, Too Young To Die” that is packed with the aforementioned empty space, allowing Lunadon to work in and around. It’s repetitive but far from repetitious while “Elastic Diagnostic” rides a rhythm into the ground and you just don’t want it to stop, as he decorates it with guitar melodies wrapped in distortion as his vocals reverberate. Honestly though, Lunadon is about iteration but he uses it to his advantage, adorning tracks like “Nothing But My Skull” with clever melodies disguised as garage rock punk. It’s masterful in the most simplest of ways.
Dion Lunadon is that artist that you just want to hear more of again and again. Beyond Everything gives us everything, and on the slowly dragging “Pink X” we get something haunting, building and collapsing all around itself at times, offering a challenge of sorts, showcasing his own eclectic behavior with more shifting dynamics. Lunadon has shown us all what he’s got, and it seems the future is bright. We’re in for a reckoning.
With more than a few groups, respect is often given because it’s earned. Throughout its 20-plus years of existence, Rise Against has obtained that respect from its peers and its fans, delivering its hardcore punk, utilizing its platform to deliver topics ranging from humanitarian and political issues to the environmental. While there are others that may do the same, they don’t do it with as much vigor & venom as Rise Against.
The band shares a surprise release today with the Nowhere Generation II EP (Loma Vista Recordings) and it doesn’t take long to understand that within the confines of five songs, the band’s prowess and ideals come across quickly and fervently. Listeners will keep reverting back to “Last Man Standing,” a call to action, a visceral view of political leaders ignoring the disenfranchised, which isn’t anything new as history so eloquently has taught us. Musically, the melodicism throughout the track, the powerful low-end theory at points, and the distanced harmonies included: all as the band members crash and careen through the track. It’s larger than life itself. But this isn’t a solitary moment on the EP where the band’s songwriting and instrument prowess is heard, just take a listen to “This Time It’s Personal.” It opens with a staccato guitar rhythm right before the dynamics shift as the rest of the band joins in. The melancholy in vocalist Tim McIIrath’s voice is palpable with clear-cut imagery in his lyrics, and when he sings “And when these fields are overrun with children dodging dropping bombs, (yeah) your flags all look the same to me,” hearts will ache. It shifts though as he becomes the spirit of vengeance. We see it all through the media and Rise Against allows listeners to feel it through the music. At this point, if you’re not communing with the music, you’re probably dead inside.
Rise Against is more than what we may think they are, with a multi-faceted view on “Pain Mgmt,” tackling the constant struggle of mental health. It’s something many deal with constantly, with helping hands always outstretched looking to pull them from the darkness surrounding them. It’s a heavy subject and the band creates a sonically stunning composition to fit around those hefty words.
If you haven’t guessed it, Nowhere Generation II is stunning. From beginning to end, Rise Against offers some of the most intense recordings its ever made. The band continues to evolve although never relinquishing who they are. That in and of itself is pretty bad ass.