Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Early Warning System - Overworld
   
Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock Produced By: Kevin Windross
Record Label: Soundmass Country Of Origin: Australia
Year Released: 2006 Artist Website:
Tracks: 10 Rating: 75%
Running Time: 42:32
Early Warning System - Overworld

Canberra, Australia is home to Early Warning System and its 2006 full length debut Overworld.  A band that can trace its history to a friendship that formed between vocalist David McCallum and guitarist Kevin Windross in the late nineties, Early Warning System came together in 2004 but did not round out its line up until recruiting bassist Nick Danser and drummer Simon Waugh two years later.  What we have in Overworld is melodic hard rock on the progressive side of things.  No, not over the top progressive in the same sense as Neal Morse or Vertical Alignment but rather reflecting the occasional progressive tendency not unlike Ascension Theory or Stride.  And nowhere is this more evident than on the albums three opening tracks in the polished hard rocker “Bend”, “Shell” (a King’s X influenced piece) and modern sounds of “Bipolar”.  The influence of King’s X can be found in several other numbers here as well, most notably “Light The Way” (with its pronounced low end) and “Skin” (as a result of its ethereal backing vocals).  The material on Overworld, otherwise, can best be described as moody and subdued in charting the waters of mid-tempo territory.  The likes of the ballad “In Your Eyes”, the emotional “Rocket Ship” and “Big Yellow Sun” (the albums only track recorded live) all move at a tempered pace in giving rise to an all around laid back feel.  And that might be part of the problem in that Overworld could use the diversity an up-tempo song or two could bring.  The album, for instance, has a “sameness” quality to it over its final half in that “Sometimes” and a few others fall a bit flat; as a result, I cannot help but think the band would have benefited from imbuing things with a bit more energy and aggression.  Still, Overworld stands out as a solid debut showcasing the abilities of this talented four piece unit “from down under”.

Where the direct King’s X comparison ends is in the area of lead vocals in that frontman David McCallum brings a clean and smooth sounding vocal style that has more in common with Clinton Johannes (Teramaze) rather than Doug Pinnick (King’s X).  Guitarist Kevin Windross also proves quite capable, exhibiting his abilities best on “Bend” and, of course, the shredding instrumental “KL”.  Nick Danser (bass) and Simon Waugh (drums) provide solid support as the bands rhythm section, although Mark Searle and Ben Schumann fill in on bass on several tracks.

Production values give rise to an ample amount of clarity with a crisp rhythm guitar sound and pronounced low end.  King’s X guitarist Ty Tabor, it must be noted, mastered the project (hence, the King’s X-ish feel to some of the material here).

While Overworld might not be considered bold or forthright in its lyrical direction, “In Your Eyes”, “Big Yellow Sun” and others clearly reflect the faith of Early Warning System’s members.  All around, I find the message here to be an encouraging and uplifting one.

“Bend” proves quite the smooth sounding album opener, evenly drifting between its relaxed verse portions and a chorus advancing at the faster and more upbeat tempo.  Windross brightens things up with a spirited run of lead guitar.  All in all, this one brings an emotional feel both musically and lyrically:

Now along this path
Every twist and turn
You run from this world
That’s left you burned

All the time you held on
Your shallow friends are gone
Breathe start again
But don’t you bend…

The King’s X style hard rock of “Shell” picks up the pace with its tenacious mix of rhythm guitar.  One of the albums heavier pieces, the song stands out with its forcefully delivered chorus and the clean vocal flavorings of David McCallum.  Lyrically, “Shell” talks about making a break from the past:

Like sand through your hand is this
Life that eludes you
If you could hold on for just one more day

Brothers who wont’ stand with you
In this place that’s bound by tears and the pain
Those that have gone before you

Coming out of my shell
Where is all good and well
On the past you can’t dwell
I’m coming out of my shell
The failures of yesterday
But tomorrow is new

“Bipolar” moves in a slower, mid-tempo direction with occasional modern overtones.  The overall mood here almost borders on the downtrodden, reflecting in the pronounced feel to the songs low end and complementary mix of swirling rhythm guitar.  A short but fluid stretch of lead guitar adds to the melancholy scene.  The focus of “Bipolar” is on overcoming and having the courage to keep going:

You’re waiting for life to pop
On the edge you’re about to drop
Yesterday you were up
Tomorrow you’re down
Today you’ve got me spinning around
Your ground is shifting again

“Light The Way” represents a song of contrasts with its light and airy verse portions and a muscular chorus shored up by silky, smooth vocal harmonies.  The distinct bass line underscoring the full length of the song only adds to its appeal.  “Light The Way” deals with finding the right path in life:

Got to dig deep
It’s your time of need
Carry the world
And hold to the creed

Knives in your back
Passion that feeds
Pushed over the edge
Where you can receive

Give me a sign
Show me the way
Hand me some time
Light the way

An acoustic guitar gracefully carries the ballad “In Your Eyes” over its first minute and a half.  Picking up in pace, the song culminates for a melodic based chorus backed by a crisp rhythm guitar.  Real catchy – almost radio friendly – feel to this one.  Searching for the truth is the subject here:

Confused and unsure
We walk into the light
We seek the open door
A cure to make us tight

Broken man in sinking sand
Trying to get it right
The search for truth that never fades
Burns under the light

”Sometimes” follows the same pattern of “In Your Eyes” by quietly drifting ahead prior to building initiative for a chorus carried in guitar driven fashion.  In the end, “Sometimes”, while musically quite similar to “In Your Eyes”, falls a bit flat due to its lack of energetic presence and defined chorus hook.

“Rocket Ships” can best be described as polished hard rock.  The song begins to a forward swell of rhythm guitar only to settle down acoustically for its first verse.  Gaining momentum in a guitar driven manner, “Rocket Ships” makes an even transition to a chorus in which an emotionally charged setting is put into place.  What we have is a song focusing on perseverance:

Playing catch up is never any fun
Never say it can’t be done
Or you’ll be the lonely one
Systems are down
I’m losing altitude
Power is failing
Here comes the ground
Testing my fortitude

“Skin”, one of the albums shortest pieces at 3:33, moves calmly ahead to a quietly played guitar before a touch of vocal harmonies steps forward to highlight the ethereal tinged chorus that follows.  Compelling and catchy, “Skin” is another piece in which King’s X comes to mind.

 “Big Yellow Sun”, recorded live in Singapore in July of 2006, is a groove flavored number standing out with a fat bass line and plenty of churning rhythm guitar.  Chorus wise, this one come across stately in capacity in giving rise to a near decisive feel.  “Big Yellow Sun” points out how life always moves on:

Oh Lord will you comfort me
I can’t go on here unforgiven
Endless hammering form a life of indecision

When it’s all said and done
The world keeps turning around a big yellow sun
And everyday more people are gone

The fusion based instrumental “KL” starts slowly to an acoustic guitar before Windross steps forward with his jazz-like work on lead guitar.  He proceeds to put on a poignant display of soloing throughout the song, displaying his bluesy – at times razor sharp – riffs and chops (something I wish he had done a bit more throughout the project).

Overworld is a very fine work characterized by refined production values and solid musicianship.  Musically, I might hit the skip button once or twice but otherwise the album proves a consistent listen.  I would, however, like to encourage the band to give us a few more up-tempo compositions (and a bit more energy at the same time) on any project it records in the future.  Still, if you are a fan of melodic hard rock and/or King’s X you would do yourself a favor by checking Overworld out.

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Bend” (5:20), “Shell” (4:16), “Bipolar” (4:46), “Light The Way” (4:14), “In Your Eyes” (3:38), ”Sometimes” (3:27), “Rocket Ships” (4:01), “Skin” (3:33), “Big Yellow Sun” (4:51), “KL” (4:25)

Musicians
David McCallum – Lead Vocals
Kevin Windross – Guitars & Keyboards
Nick Danser – Bass
Simon Waugh – Drums

Guest Musicians
Mark Searle & Ben Schumann - Bass

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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