Friday, December 26, 2008

Tsavo - The Search CD Review

Thank God there are still some decent bands in the modern hard rock scene. It’s been a tough on and off battle for whether we’d see Nickelback, Hinder, Daughtry, and their brethren utterly dominate the popular rock scene with their more intelligent kin giving up, or if we’d see the continued insurrection of smart, catchy hard rock bands making inroads to give the genre at least a modicum of respect. Tsavo continues a trend of underground hard rock bands trying to push their way into the spotlight, even if only temporarily and to remind people that if you want to listen to rock music it doesn’t necessarily have to be utter crap.

Following in the footsteps of some of the other inspiring hard rock releases of this year, such as new efforts from 10 Years, The Butterfly Effect, and Rishloo, as well as a strong debut from Pitchblend, Tsavo serve up a hearty rock sounds with numerous influences ranging from A Perfect Circle to Chevelle. Eschewing the simple song structures of the moronic radio friendly rock bands, Tsavo craft songs that feel like they could be heard on a local hard rock radio station, but lacking the artificiality that seems to be needed to garner any prime airtime. Let’s just say they sound a little too introspective and moody to get the local shotgun toting, pickup driving, Pabst drinking meatheads reared up and ready to beat their girlfriends. Listening to anything off of The Search might make their heads hurt, not because it’s so “brootal dude!” but because it might make a synapse or two actually fire, something that doesn’t happen very often for the world of Hurt fans out there.

The focus of this band will easily be the crooning vocals of lead singer Cameron. It’s not too far of a stretch to hear a strong A Perfect Circle influence in the way he stretches his notes and draws out the length of the lyrics as he sings. If he were not as strong of a vocalist as he is, the album would fall quite flat, despite the talent of the rest of the band. In the melodic alt-rock world, if you don’t have a commanding vocalist, you just won’t make it. Period. And Cameron isn’t afraid to put himself out there as evidenced on the song “Absence”, in which he is backed only by acoustic guitars, letting him croon freely. Despite the very solid vocal performance throughout the album, there are a couple of small setbacks, mainly the couple of screamy growls thrown onto the album (see “Run” for a jarring example). They simply aren’t a natural addition to the band’s sound and are horribly out of place.

For the vast majority of the album, Tsavo stick to creating slower paced, methodical tracks, not too far from the structure that 10 Years employs. The influence is hard not to notice, but it shouldn’t come off as a negative criticism. It’s hard to think of a better modern hard rock act to look to for inspiration. You can also hear the influence in the way the album is paced — Tsavo are not afraid to shift gears from mellow to a full band assault back to slowing it down and then mixing it up from there. Doing this is often risky and can kill the flow of an album, but Tsavo pull it off and keep the album interesting up until near the close of the album. The tail end of the album loses a lot of steam and direction, but up unto that point the album is quite a compelling listen.

Now what’s really hard to believe is that Tsavo are currently unsigned and put The Search together independently. For an unsigned, independent band, there is a load of untapped potential and talent that could really be unleashed with a big studio treatment. Even without that, however, The Search feels full, hearty, and most importantly — mature. Many great things have come from Seattle in the past and the city has once again given us a band full of promise and talent.

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