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CD Reviews – June 2015

HIGHWAY 4 – UP IN ARMS (no label) Butler-based foursome Highway 4 gives their own fresh kick to anthemic, classic-styled hard rock on their first album, Up In Arms. Highway 4’s hard-driving sound is firmly rooted in 1970s and 1980s-era guitar rock, especially AC/DC. Mike Angert’s guitar flavor is informed by the stylings of AC/DC’s Malcolm and Angus Young, and the rhythm section of bassist Tylar Parker and drummer Graham Huselton packs aggressive horsepower and wallop behind Highway 4’s attack. Singer Kelly Brown fronts the group with a potent, high-flying voice that recalls classic rock women such as Pat Benatar, Lita Ford and Heart’s Ann Wilson. The songs and riffs are catchy, dealing with commonplace topics of relationship ups and downs and life in a rock band. Much of Up In Arms is pedal-to-the-metal, with the band survival disc-opening ode “Day By Day” setting the tone. The group infuses a funk edge into “Come Down,” and “You Can Find Me Here” delivers a slight rockabilly punch. The high-octane “Red Handed” is one of several songs unleashing scorn over relationship deception; others include the stern “One of These Days” and “Somewhere Caught (In the Middle).” The group muses about the apprehension of stepping away and hitting the road on the burner “Headin’ “Out” and the slower “Break on Free.” And music dreams and aspirations are the focus of “Long Road Home” and “The Rhythm.” Highway 4 slows it down once on the final track, the Pat Benatar-flavored “Where’s Your Faith.” Highway 4 plays for keeps, and their delivery is aggressive and tight. The guitar chords snarl, the guitar solos slice and dice, and the rhythms drive and hammer. Kelly Brown’s voice rings high and clear throughout the set, and she delivers her voice with heart and passion. Recorded by Doug Kasper at Pittsburgh’s Soundscape Studio, Up In Arms sounds big, crisp and full; allowing Highway 4 to show their teeth without compromising their melodic edge. Those longing for classic-flavored rock will savor what Highway 4 brings to the table on Up in Arms, a bold introductory salvo designed for cranking loud on big sound systems. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.highway4band.com.)

 

COASTAL REMEDY – TO THE WORLD (no label) Indiana’s Coastal Remedy raises the bar on their songwriting skills on their sophomore full-length CD, To the World. The sound generated by singer/guitarist Max Bizousky, guitarist Adam Hess, bassist Matt Snyder and drummer Matt Magill is rooted in contemporary alternative and indie rock in the spirit of Incubus, yet displays structured and infectious melodies and ambient tones through the disc’s 14 tracks. Coastal Remedy plays with a variety of song arrangements and dynamics on the album; the disc-opener “Cozy” quickly builds to its punchy, infectious chorus in its offer of foldaway comfort, while the title track “To the World” is a dynamic, dual-speed affair. The group gets heavy with the explosive, tension-and-release arrangement of “Bones,” and experiments with escalating arrangements on “Thought” and the jazz-informed “Golden Place.” Coastal Remedy is also adept at slower paces; constructing an infectious, soulful groove on “Gloria,” taking listeners on a dreamy acoustic ride on “The River” and painting darker shades on the atmospheric and ambient “She’s in Love.” Bizousky varies his delivery, from high-soaring vocal acrobatics to soft-spoken, poetic passages. Instrumentally, Coastal Remedy mixes up their textures and tones, layering guitars and changing up rhythms to keep the entire set fresh-sounding from start to end. Produced and engineered by Klint Macro at Cobblesound Recording Company in New Kensington, To the World sounds clean, crisp and full, and lets the band expose their expansive musical personality with minimal studio bells and whistles. The result is a fresh, captivating listen; Coastal Remedy elaborates on their style and sound on To the World, revealing to the world an adventurous band unafraid to explore and push the boundaries of their musical realm. (The CD can be purchased through the group’s website, www.coastalremedy.com.)

WRITING OFF TOMORROW – FLIRTING WITH DEATH EP (no label) A dual-state collaboration featuring musicians from Somerset County, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia, Writing Off Tomorrow formed nearly five years ago. The group’s sophomore seven-song EP, Flirting with Death, defines and refines the group’s unique and tenacious nu-metal dynamic. Casey Ringler’s caustic guitar work and feral vocal snarl counterbalance the melodic siren-like voice of the group’s lead singer and lyricist, Megan Edison; with bassist Bill Wiltrout and drummer Joe Canfield powering brute-force rhythms. Writing Off Tomorrow runs the gamut between pounding metallic aggression and bursts of shadowy melancholy. Fitting of the title, Flirting with Death is a dark album, following a loose theme of personal wars and struggles pushing the soul and mind closer to the edge. The disc begins with death, as against a wall of strings, “Funeral for a Lie” observes an ended life, its separation from pain, and the emotional wreckage left behind. It leaps into the pummeling “Kick Your Body Cold,” where patience is wearing thin and the game is getting old. The explosive “Wither, Bleed and Scream” savagely addresses domination and possession, while the disco beat-powered “Pick My Bones Dry” ponders head games. In perhaps the disc’s darkest moment, the ballad “Another Day” explores inner demons and suicidal struggles. The clarity and focus of Megan Edison’s voice convincingly sells the set’s dark themes, as her performance is full and steady throughout. The band throttles with velocity and precision, with the mix allowing them to bare their full teeth while retaining the dark melodic tones. Writing Off Tomorrow strengthens their musical identity on Flirting with Death, raising the bar on their creativity and intensity. (The EP can be obtained through the group’s website,www.writingofftomorrow.com.)

CLOSE TO CONSIDERATION – CONSID-I-RATION (no label) Formed nine years ago when the members were young teens, Close to Consideration has evolved their unique fusion of reggae, funk, jam, punk and ska. Their latest CD, Consid-i-ration, mixes all of these flavors into a punchy, catchy blend over ten tracks. Singer/guitarist Chad Wright, drummer/singer Austin Weaver and bassist/singer Sam Hug generate often infectious song hooks, and mix up tempos, chords and rhythms to bring those hooks to life. Wonder and hope inform much of Consid-i-ration’s lyrics; the reggae-driven disc-opening title track is philosophical and ponders direction in life, while the funkier “Uncontrolled Flow” muses about creativity and freeing one’s mind. The group ponders a pot bust on the darker reggae of “Probation Song,” and offers a hopeful tone on the relaxing R&B-flavored “Floating.” Close to Consideration fires their ska/punk chops on the playful “Yabba-Dabba-Do” and the disc-closer “Chee-Woah,” and generates some Rolling Stones-flavored hard rock on “Counting.” The group delivers a spontaneous vibe and feel with their performance, executing with a go-for-broke attitude but displaying instrumental tightness. Chad Wright demonstrates a fast-firing, freewheeling singing style that serves the material well, occupying a middle ground between Bob Marley and Anthony Kiedis. Recorded in an auditorium at York College, Consid-i-ration has a cavernous resonance to it, yet the components of Close to Consideration’s mix sound clear and distinct. Wright’s vocals could stand to be more prominent in spots, but overall this is a good-sounding set. Close to Consideration’s lively, carefree approach makes Consid-i-ration a fun and rewarding listen, and suggests that this group’s live show may offer a similar sense of adventure and spontaneity worth checking out. (The CD can be obtained through Close to Consideration’s Reverbnation page, www.reverbnation.com/ctcnation.)

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