Monday, March 28, 2011

Kopek: The Rock Of The Irish

Have you ever played word association? Ok then, what comes to mind when I say Irish? Red hair? Shamrocks? Bagpipes? Lucky Charms? How about genuine and authentic rock and roll saviors, here to deliver a sermon that not only is rock and roll not dead, but it is about to grab you by the neck and choke you into submission. Do I have your attention now?

Let me introduce you to three lads from Dublin, Ireland: Shane Cooney on drums, Brad Kinsella on bass and Daniel Jordan on vocals and guitar. They go by the name Kopek and their debut CD, “White Collar Lies”, has only been out a short time, but it has caught the attention of an industry that has grown stale and an audience that is hungry for real music. These guys are as genuine as you get: real musicians writing real songs and playing real music.

I had the privilege of catching up with drummer Shane Cooney before a recent gig and we talked about this crazy rock and roll ride that has begun for the band. “The response here in the States has been overwhelming at times. We wanted to keep things honest and original when we made the CD, but we truly did not expect this kind of a reaction on this side of the pond. Everyone seems to be really into it,” said Shane.
So, what’s in a name? What exactly does Kopek mean? Shane explained, “It really doesn’t mean anything, we just liked the word. We wanted to choose something that people would hear and associate it with the band, no second meanings. We wanted to have a blank canvas, free to do what we wanted. Plus, it needed to have a hardcore and rock sound to it.”

The boys have been busting their chops and paying their dues for almost ten years now, so this is no overnight sensation story. Drawing on influences ranging from Robert Johnson and the Doors to Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins, the lads perfected their sound. Daniel provides some nasty guitar riffs that are as infectious as his very unique voice. Shane and Brad are a solid rhythm unit providing that fist in the air pumping backbeat that keeps the songs throbbing along.
“Our style is one that would stop you on the street, throw you up against the wall and slap you in the face”, says Shane, when asked about the group’s sound. “The Sex Pistols would have killed for all of this material to write about. There is so much horror going on in the world. Then you have bands that write love songs, but what if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend? Things do tend to piss us off, especially after our hangover wears off and we like to write about those things; whether it’s the price of alcohol or the price of oil.”

Shane told me that his musical defining moment came when his parents took him to a midnight show when he was eleven to see Jerry Lee Lewis in Ireland. It was a rare opportunity to see Lewis perform and Shane was a mere twenty feet away from him in a small club. He was so blown away by how real Lewis was and how he wasn’t trying to copy anyone else, he just wanted to be himself. That was the moment that he knew he wanted to do that for a living.

Speaking of shows, Kopek has definitely been busy burning up the road on tour. They just finished up a very successful tour with Hinder, Saving Abel and My Darkest Day. I was fortunate to see the guys perform in Greensboro, NC on that tour. “That was a great show! The crowd there was very into it and very energetic. I also learned that moonshine is a delicacy in those parts of the South,” explained Shane when recalling their stop in North Carolina. The band ended that tour and then jumped onto another tour with Cold and Egypt Central. Shane told me that when that tour was over, the band would be joining another tour, but he couldn’t let the cat out of the bag yet and tell me who with.

Our conversation closed with a discussion of the band celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the States instead of their native Ireland. “We were actually in Baltimore on that day and had a show to play. It’s amazing how all of America comes together and for one day only, everyone is Irish. I think we drank for two days straight and are still a bit hung over. America certainly knows how to do St. Patrick’s Day right,” said Shane.

I have to tell you all that this band has had a major impact on me. I cannot tell you the last time that I got a CD that was as solid as “White Collar Lies” is. Shane explained to me that they wrote and recorded in a way so that each song could be strong enough to be a single and video. The irony is that there are so many choices floating around, that the label is debating exactly which one to release next. How many bands can say that they actually have that type of a problem?

Check out these Irish lads and see what all the fuss is about. One listen to “White Collar Lies” will make you a believer not only in the luck of the Irish, but also in the talent of these amazing musicians.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I See Stars Throw A Party

I See Stars gained a huge fan following after the release of their acclaimed debut album 3-D. The release defied genres and really captured the attention of many on the music scene. The guys brought forth the emergence of electronicore to the scene that proved to be a popular entrée to hungry music fans looking for something new. What exactly is electronicore? Well, you take one part auto-tone, add one part electronic, mesh in just about every genre imaginable and add a dash of screamed vocals.

The band toured heavily in support of their debut release, including the 2010 Warped Tour, and their live show gained new fans with each and every performance. Those fans have waited five years for new material and the result sees the band taking path in a new direction, while trying to stay true to their roots. The new album entitled The End of the World Party is definitely a party album with more focus on techno/dance and less on hardcore.

Lead singer Devin Oliver and his band mates have decided that, instead of recreating that magic that they captured with 3-D, they wanted to step it up and take it to a new level. The album tends to lean heavier on the electronic and techno edge, with less emphasis on the hardcore. Auto tune is something that a lot of bands are experimenting with and for some fans, it’s a “take it or leave it” addition. There is some experimentation with it on tracks such as “Home for the Weekend”, but I don’t think that the guys over saturate the music with it until the point of overkill.

I think there are some really great tracks on here including “The Common Hours 2” and the title track, with “Over It” being probably the strongest track overall. There are plenty of catchy and heavy riffs and the overall feel of the album is very upbeat and fun. Yes, they also still have their screams before the breakdowns also. It is still a heavy pop/electronic album, but nowhere along the lines of heaviness heard on their debut.

Overall, I found it very enjoyable. I am sure that there will be fans who want to hear that same formula again that they fell in love with and they may feel as if it comes up short in the heavy category. A band must be allowed to grow and try new things in order to expect any form of longevity in this fickle music industry. I commend I See Stars for trying something new and hope that it pays off for them.

Darkest Hour Returns To Form

Washington, D.C.’s Darkest Hour is back with a newfound focus determined on bringing them back to the forefront of the metal core scene. They just released their new CD entitled “The Human Romance” and it’s a more defined sound that their fans will be very happy with.

The band has definitely seen their share of personnel changes over their 15 years together. 2007 saw the release of “Deliver Us”, which was deemed a defining moment in the bands’ career by many of their fans, both old and new. Shortly after came the sudden departure of longtime guitarist Kris Norris. He was replaced by Michael Carrigan who was an asset to their live show, but came up a little short while meshing into a cohesive unit in the studios. Their 2009 release, “Eternal Return”, left many fans a little disappointed. That release seemed to be a step back from “Deliver Us” and did not bode well with many fans. Since then, they left their longtime home of Victory Records and have signed with eOne Music. It seems as if they are hungry on this new CD and have come out of the gates with guns blazing. “The Human Romance” is a return to their defining sound that put them way
ahead of many in the same category.

John Henry’s vocals are semi-clean on this CD, but still capture that intensity that fans expect out of him. Songs such as “Love as a Weapon” show the band in top form with dueling Mikes, Carrigan and Schleibaum, assaulting the listener’s ears with blazing guitar licks. This song, in my opinion, is definitely the standout cut on the CD. The guys are just as aggressive as ever on tracks such as “Violent by Nature” and “Your Every Day Disaster”.

Overall, fans will be pleased with this return to form CD. Darkest Hour proves that after all these years together, that they are not a one trick pony. The epic instrumental “Terra Solaris”, one of two on the CD, is proof of just how great the musicianship of these guys truly is. While some tracks may be a little more melodic than others, overall it still unloads its fury with such tenacity that it will certainly melt your faces when cranked to capacity.