|Musical Style: Progressive Hard Rock||Produced By: Joel Price & Rob Young|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 52:21|
One of the benefits of managing a music related website are the previously unheard of or unknown bands – what I often refer to as “undiscovered gems” – you happen to come across. Over the past several years, for example, I have “stumbled upon” the likes of Letter 7, Messenger, Testify, Sorrows Joy, Eden’s Way and Incarnate, talented groups that garnered not only positive reviews but whose albums remained at the top of my play list for some time. One recent discovery is My Disgrace. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, My Disgrace is a band that – in its own words - “attempts to bridge the gap between progressive metal and grunge yet not sell their souls in the process”.
Now, whenever an artist puts forth the effort to “bridge a gap” between any diverse styles of music – particularly those as diverse as progressive metal and grunge – it is without a doubt a great deal of territory must be covered. That said, I cannot help but think My Disgrace successfully obtains its goals on its independently released 2009 full length debut Rise.
Actually, “progressive metal and grunge” might be a bit of a misnomer – if not too simplistic depiction – in describing what is going on here. To be more precise, My Disgrace takes the best elements of metal and hard rock and melds them with a foundation of the progressive, all the while hinting (the key word here) at the “Seattle sound” that changed the musical landscape of the early 90’s.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when going into detail about Rise: the music is very catchy – My Disgrace proves masterful at interweaving its material with notable melodies and chorus hooks – and that each of its songs brings enough diversity to stand out from its neighbors. No two of the albums songs sound the same.
Yes, My Disgrace delivers a couple of complementary (and very good) hard rockers in “My Disgrace” and “Higher Than God”, but it is on progressive based pieces such as the mood-filled “Break”, acoustic laced “Still I Cry” and relentless “Changed” that the group truly shines. And speaking of the progressive, check out the joining of speed metal and the near doom-like on “Forgive And Forget” or the endless time changes characteristic to the albums eight minute title track. Topping things off is an excursion into melodic metal (“Tears Of Sorrow”) and a bluesy ballad (“Torn”).
Direct comparisons are problematic, but if you enjoy Orphan Project, Crown Of Mercy, Evergrey, Susprye, Queensryche and Sacred Warrior then I can see My Disgrace appealing to you. Those into 90’s era Deliverance – think Learn and Camelot In Smithereens – should also find a lot to like here. The group, at the same time, has a slight Alice In Chains-like vibe – hence, the grunge reference – going on throughout the project as well.
My Disgrace features the dual lead guitar/lead vocal team of Rob Young and Joel Price. Vocal wise, the two bring both talent and diversity in combining elements of the mid-ranged and the high end- and everything in between. Haunting but moving, the two can add a low end touch not unlike Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance) on “Break” but when cutting loose and exhibiting their full range – “Tears Of Sorrow” comes to mind – they almost hint at Ray Parra (Sacred Warrior).
Young and Price shine on lead guitar as well, adding their tasteful and adept soloing abilities to each of the albums tracks. “Changed” and “My Disgrace” find the two trading off while Price bestows some bluesy playing to “Torn” and Young a more aggressive edge on “Tears Of Sorrow”.
Rounding things out is the rhythm section of drummer Paul Simmons (check out his double bass on “Forgive And Forget”) and bassist Jeff Earl.
It also must be pointed out that what appear to be keyboards throughout the album are actually guitar delays- one of the signature sounds developed by Price.
Production values fail to disappoint for an independent release.
The album gets off to a strong start with “My Disgrace”, a straightforward hard rocker prevailing with its abundant crunchy guitars and complementary catchy chorus. A swarthy environs establishes itself along with just the right amount of polished backing vocals. “My Disgrace” deals with temptation:
I’ve been seized by temptation
Caught in the grip of Satan’s chains
In my heart there’s a decision
That no other man can make
I’ve taken all He’s given
And thrown it all away
Taken all that He’s forgiven
And thrown in all right back into His face
“Break” stands out with its tempo changes. Low-key and moody, the song drifts through rhythm guitar driven moments – ranging from gut-level verses to a swirling chorus – and others in which the acoustic guitar plays a leading role. Versatile lead vocal performance tops things off. “Break” builds upon the themes established on “My Disgrace”:
I feel so far from You
Like a million miles away
And I just can’t seem to
Find a way to break through
This world is full of darkness
Full of temptation, lies and sin
And I’ve become a victim
Of the evil that’s within
Down on my knees I break
I can’t save me from myself
“Forgive And Forget” ranks with the albums more upbeat pieces. The song starts with a bang, immediately launching into a swiftly moving – almost speed metal – riff prior to driving through its verses with the same unyielding momentum. Upon reaching its chorus, however, “Forgive And Forget” slows as a transition is made to a near doom-like tempo. Industrial style guitar delays add to the chaotic scene. This one is aptly entitled:
Will I turn the other cheek and forgive my fellow man?
Or do I choose to walk the road I’ve walked before?
And throw away the cross of Christ
And pour out justice on my own
Here on my knees
I ask for strength
To forgive as You forgave me
Forgive and forget
“Tears Of Sorrow” can best be described as quintessential melodic metal. A mostly mid-tempo piece, the song joins another memorable chorus – upheld by a heavy dose of backing vocals – with an emotionally charged atmosphere that almost approaches semi-ballad territory. Lyrics match the mood of the music here:
As another tears fall from the sky
Spoken truth shows the way
Now there’s nothing more to say
All the answers plain as day
Still you walked the other way
Tried so hard to drown the pain
Had to keep from going ‘sain
But in the end you closed your eyes and traded the truth for a lie
“Still I Cry” also presents with variances in tempo- ranging from the low-key to the guitar driven. The song proceeds slowly through its first verse acoustically, not gaining initiative until the rhythm guitar steps forward and leads the way to its far reaching chorus. All the while the acoustic guitar makes its presence felt as does highlighting traces of guitar delays. “Still I Cry” talks about creation:
Before any life began
So I was and so I am
I was before any time began
There I was and here I am
I spoke the word into existence
I spoke and so it came to be
I breathed life into every living thing
I made you
But still you don’t love me
The bands penchant for the catchy is maintained on “Higher Than God”. Metal-edged in capacity, the song advances its length to a dominant rhythm guitar as a muscular (but melodic) chorus and churning low end puts things over the top. This is one of several songs here in which that Alice In Chains vibe comes into play. “Higher Than God” comes across in the form of a confession:
I stepped on everyone
Who dared to be
Close to me
And my foolish dreams
So God brought me down
Onto my knees – onto my knees
I was so deceived and I believed
That I could be higher than God
My Disgrace mellows out on the haunting ballad “Torn”. Yes, the pace slows down a bit but the trade off is the laid back – almost bluesy – setting characterizing what I might describe as quite the scintillating piece. Polished backing vocals drive its compelling chorus while a slow but blues based lead guitar carries its instrumental moments. “Torn” is a song of hope:
But there’s hope in the Light
And if you seek you will find
The answers to fill the void inside
A voice of reason can’t touch you
When you scorn
You can’t get out of this prison
When you’re torn
But there’s hope in the Light
The quality continues with the all out progressiveness of the albums title track. With its variances in structure and abundant time changes, “Rise” will leave your head spinning as it maneuvers through a labyrinth-like milieu of double bass driven passages, slower acoustic laced moments and rollicking verses. A determined chorus – very catchy and heartfelt – prevents the song (despite its eight minute length) from turning into a trite listen. “Rise” talks about “rising” above the pain of life:
Temptations always searching
Looking for a way
To capture and devour
To kill and enslave
Dragging souls through hell and back
Causing so much pain
I will rise
Up from the ashes of this empty way of life
I will rise
Up-tempo hard rocker “Changed” opens in a calm (almost jazzy) manner before an avalanche of guitar kicks in. Moving forward tempestuously, the song creates quite the turbulent scene as it plows through its first and second verse on the way to the smoothly flowing chorus that follows. The jazz-like demeanor reasserts itself at the start of an instrumental section sustained by a brazen stretch of lead guitar. “Changed” touches upon God’s forgiveness:
I needed a cure for my disease
I had a hole in my heart
That I couldn’t fill
And it’s so crazy how
You loved me still
After all of the sorrow
And all of the pain
It was Your forgiveness
That made me change
Closing tracks “Day And Night” and “Set Free”, while quite good and far from filler, rank just a notch below the albums better material. “Day And Night” brings a touch of groove and a hard rocking edge while “Set Free” heads in the more low key direction with its lacing of the acoustic and bluesy flavorings. Both bring solid hooks but are just not on the same level as those preceding them.
The best way to summarize would be to state that My Disgrace represents a refreshing new addition to the Christian metal scene. Those whose tastes range from metal and hard rock to the progressive should find a lot to enjoy in Rise. Yes, the music here can be a bit complex at times but it is also very melodic and memorable. The dual lead vocal and lead guitar approach works as does the solid production values. I look forward to hearing more from My Disgrace in the future.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “My Disgrace” (3:35), “Break” (4:33), “Forgive And Forget” (3:50), “Tears Of Sorrow” (5:16), “Still I Cry” (6:15), “Higher Than God” (3:54), “Torn” (4:25), “Rise” (7:53), “Changed” (5:16), “Day And Night” (3:35), “Set Free” (3:52)
Joel Price – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Rob Young – Lead Vocals & Guitar
Jeff Earl – Bass
Paul Simmons - Drums