|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website: Derek Close|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 40:10|
Everything about The Beta Sessions, the March of 2014 sophomore album of bassist and guitarist Derek Close, screams straightforward hard rock. Slicing and knife-edged guitar riffs. Brazen soloing of a bluesy nature. Pummeling rhythm section with arresting bass lines. Gritty vocals on the raspy side of things. Heavy slant towards the blues but interspersed with groove and funk based overtones.
The Kalispell, Montana native is quite the veteran of the hard music scene, having gotten his start in the mid-nineties as part of My Cat Puddinhead at the time it recorded its self-titled debut demo. He later went on to form Judah, which recorded a demo in 1997 entitled One Step From The Basement, and contribute bass to the 1999 release from About This Big, Chaos Theory. After taking an extended hiatus from music, the artist returned in 2007 by recording the bass tracks for Sanctyfied’s second album, Flying High, in addition to putting out his debut solo release, an instrumental Christmas rock album from 2011 entitled In The Christmas Groove.
It is with such momentum behind him that Close recorded The Beta Sessions. In drawing heavily upon the artists blues based and hard rock roots, the album walks a fine line between Rez Band (think the groups later eighties to early nineties era starting with Silence Screams but also including Civil Rites) and F.O.G. (not unlike Broken and Judgement & Redemption). Strong hints of other acts taking a similar musical heading will be encountered as well, including Thieves & Liars, Mission Of One, Under Command and Cornerstone/Stonefuze.
The Beta Sessions takes a dual vocal approach, with Darren Lyda fronting four of the albums tracks and Draylen Andrew the remaining three.
The gravelly and blues soaked delivery of Lyda best complements “9-1-1”, a slamming and heavy hitting hard rocker that would do prime Rez Band proud, and “Violence: Domesticated”, slower but every bit robust in playing up razor sharp guitars and a curtly done milieu. He exhibits a more versatile side to his abilities on “Daddy” and “Dreaming In Color”, two of the albums lighter with their tempered guitar tones (interspersed with heavier guitar edges) and emotional semi-ballad basis (plenty of melody rising to the surface either way).
Andrew highlights his smoother and more even presence on “Out Of Reach”, almost touching upon worship rock in yielding sublime undercurrents and a trending towards the atmospheric. He fits every bit well on mid-tempo hard rockers “The Pavilion” and “Opposite Extremes”, with former set apart by its catchy refrain and precise guitar and bass interplay and latter merging sledgehammer guitars and occasional spoken word delivery with a setting on the dramatic side of things.
An album written and recorded by a bassist, as one might imagine, is going to place special emphasis on bass guitar, and such is the case with the albums remaining trio of instrumental tracks. All three are up-tempo, with “Atomic Clock” joining melodic riffs and harmonies with jazzy bass lines and “Cerebral Vortex” taking the more aggressive stance with metal-laced guitars aligning with churning bass underpinnings. “El Gato” maintains the spirited demeanor but driven by a groove based focus from its larger than life bass presence and crunch heavy mentality.
Close proves no small talent on guitar either, a particular the aforementioned instrumentals leave little doubt. Lead guitar otherwise varies in being ably done, ranging from the commanding tone taken on “Violence: Domesticated” to the bluesy stance imbuing “The Pavilion”. A more poignant tone to his playing presents itself on “Daddy”. The overall feel is that Stu Heiss (Rez Band) and Troy Thompson (Bride) would be done proud.
Lone complaint revolves around production, which reflects some slight muddy elements. Yes, some thinness is to be expected when factoring The Beta Sessions is an independent release from a musician at such an early stage in his career. It has been my experience this is an area that will improve with subsequent releases from the artist.
Lyrics are reflective of Close’s faith in touching upon social issues such as suicide and domestic violence. Other meaningful topics covered include making the best of our circumstances (regardless of strength or weakness) and calling out to God at our time of need.
Musically, The Beta Sessions is all good, with heavier numbers and lighter tracks interspersed with well-timed instrumentals. Yes, some songs are better than others but nothing I skip over either. Further adding to the albums strength is the artist’s skillful bass work and guitar abilities along with the talents of two equally good vocalists. Any production misgivings, again, will improve with time and experience. All around, I look forward to hearing more from Close in the future.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “9-1-1” (4:21), “Atomic Clock” (4:06), “Out Of Reach” (6:10), “Cerebral Vortex” (4:20), “Violence: Domesticated” (3:51), “Opposite Extremes” (5:07), “The Pavilion” (4:42), “Daddy” (6:15), “El Gato” (4:02), “Dreaming In Color” (4:30)
Derek Close - Guitars, Bass & Drum Programming
Draylen Andrew - Lead Vocals
Darren Lyda - Lead Vocals