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Heavy America - ...Now (2017)




Written by Scott Wigley, posted by blog admin

A long time ago alternative rock stopped being alternative rock.  Gone were the interesting ideas of Seattle and Subpop, the tougher sounding prog/hard-rock/neo-psychedelic bands of the 90s (Hum, Failure, Shiner, etc.) all broke up and the often overlooked post-grunge bands like Paw and Menthol from the second wave of the movement never officially called it a day but simply went on eternal hiatus.  There’s a smattering of bands amongst the new guard that still nail the sound of yesteryear and keep it alive but not enough, so along comes Boston’s Heavy America to show that a true alternative still exists. 

The band’s ideals across the 9 tracks of their debut …Now encapsulates everything that was great about the aforementioned outfits while adding their own secret sauce to the crockpot.  Their nearest peers are difficult to define yet they can be closest related to Paw in the way they combine clean psychedelic textures, riff-driven 70s rock and gruffly affecting vocal melodies into something very much a product of a long lost time.  Most tracks on …Now leisurely excavate twinkling, twanging guitars that are only lightly distorted (ala Dinosaur Jr. or Shiner) that slowly rises into towering riff/groove salvos battered into place by the lively rhythm duo of drummer Dan Fried and bassist Budd Lapham.  Vocalist/guitarist Mike Seguin has a highly melodic voice capable of Marlboro smoked registers as well, yet again calling to mind Paw’s underrated country poet Mark Hennessy.  Though they eschew slide guitars and pedal steel for keys, “Proud Shame” wavers on the midpoint of highly catchy, sweetly crafted guitar melodicism that still has a penchant for boozed-up power chord anger.  The same can be said for the bass/percussion surges which range from pensive contemplation to bone-busting lurches.  In one simple song Heavy America lays the foundation for the album to come, even if the successive songs constantly tweak the formula. 

There’s eclectic freak-out jams that turn the hard rock staples of yore on their ear with either killer quiet/loud dynamics that challenge any indie rock band with PURE rock (“Bleed Mary,” “Casting Stones”) and they even go into lengthy atmospheric trips which sound like a 60s psychedelic rock band stranded in the meanest biker bar on the south side of town (“I Can Take It”).  They can a pretty much big riff-free ballad like “Heavy Eyes” and not lose my attention span or pour on the throttle with relentless southern rock n’ roll in the vein of the mid-tempo “Sweet Kisses” or the more brass-knuckle bashing of “Pray for Me” and “Goliath.”  The only thing that’s proof positive is that a bad song is not in their vocabulary. 

With no duff filler tunes, underdeveloped jamming and songs bereft of memorable craftsmanship, …Now is very much a perfect 70s rock album that crash-landed in 2017.  You can preview any song here and be impressed enough to buy the whole album and that’s the mark of a band with top-notch chops at the top of their game and Heavy America’s career in rock n’ roll is just getting started. 

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Swirl’s recent video for their single “Rise Up” highlights all of the qualities that brought the band to the attention of Ditch Day’s producers. The popular movie highlights three songs from the Southern California four piece and represents some of their biggest exposure yet. It follows on the heels of their self-titled release and the songs selected for inclusion on the film soundtrack represent the quality of that release quite well. The band consists of lead singer Alfred Ramirez, guitarist Duane “DT” Jones”, bassist Shane Carlson, and drummer Brian “Bam Bam” Jones. Their vivid and muscular hard rock veers into outright metal at certain points, but Swirl never goes in for the mindless bash and thud sound so common to lesser bands in this genre. Th…