Monday, April 28, 2008

Jeroan Drive - The Stones Remain in Silence CD Review

Your enjoyment of this release, and ultimately of the band itself, hinges on one very important aspect of the band--the vocals. Erik Fǽo has a screeching wail that takes a little getting used to, to say the least. Coming off as a mix of Dennis Lyxzén from Refused, Johnny Whitney from The Blood Brothers, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala it’s easy to see how Erik’s approach may grate on many listeners’ nerves. I’d like to say that you’ll eventually get used to it and may even grow to like his approach, but that isn’t necessarily the case. I know that for some, his vocals just won’t ever be approachable and that should be expected with such an outright abrasive style.

While the vocals are sure to be the focus of your ears the first time you listen to Jeroan Drive, the rest of the band doesn’t sit back with the knowledge that they aren’t the focus. Honestly, it might be interesting to hear some instrumental tracks and a few more instrumental passages since these guys pull together some of the better pieces of Refused, Thursday, and even some Helmet-esque moments. “The Greatest Betrayal” contains some of the best Helmet riffs in the last 4 years that haven't been written by Page Hamilton. Really, though, this song is a little bit of a departure from the band’s predominant sound, focusing on the really heavy riffs between the subdued choruses filled with melodic female vocals that are, unfortunately, mixed a little too low and almost get lost in the shuffle.

The band does get to show off their chops on the latter half of “11:57 at the Laundry Service” as they lay down a very precise, surgical post-hardcore groove that no doubt slays when played live. At times, as stellar as Jeroan Drive are, they tend to stray a little too much into the realm of merely mimicking Refused. “Mirror Escapades”, for example, sounds like it could have been a long lost b-side from The Shape of Punk to Come. The only thing that keeps it from sounding exactly like a Refused song is the spoken word style vocals near the end of the song that, frankly, should have just been left out.

Special note should be given to the title track as it shows the band really stretching their musical legs. The song has many disparate and interesting elements. It’s barraging at first, but it still possesses a mellow undercurrent courtesy of the backing chimes. The melodic female vocals make a return on this track to much more success than in “The Greatest Betrayal”. The song flows nicely back and forth between thundering heavy verses and the more restrained choruses before spreading out into a sprawling instrumental bridge that eventually fades to silence only to be resurrected in a cacophonic, cathartic, and unrestrained release, easily becoming the album’s strongest song.

It’s easy to peg this band as nothing more than a Refused clone with some slightly more abrasive vocals but, believe it or not, this band is much more than that. There is a genuine sense of emotion flowing through this band, showcased in the violently delivered vocals and intricate instrumental delivery both.

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