Well guys, it's time for our fourteenth monthly local metal CD review, and this month, we take a surprise turn to an album that I hadn't forecasted getting a copy of until just last week! Yes, this month, we'll take a look at the second & final CD from inactive local experimental grunge trio SBD, entitled "Sonic Experiments: Mulligan Edition"! A do-over of the original pressing of "Sonic Experiments" (only sold at their debut concert in May 2010), this album, lovingly wrapped in tinfoil, was officially launched at their show at what's now Coch's Corner on August 28th, and features more songs along with a few removals and adjustments to improve the quality. It was self-produced and recorded from 2009 to earlier this year, and features the band's classic lineup, including singer/guitarist Dann Pichette, bassist Brad Griffith, and drummer Shane Triplett. "Sonic Experiments: Mulligan Edition" is not out of print, but you could attempt to contact the band through their official Soundclick page to get a copy! Nine of the featured songs, be they the form on the new CD or otherwise, can be streamed there as well. This CD features 12 songs clocking in at over 75 minutes of music, let's begin this review with the first song, "Ess"! (Updated on September 28th, 2012)
"Ess" is an instrumental track which deftly mixes the experimental nature of their sound with some good musical abilities! Starting with a bouncy bass line and some nice drum work, the song features a lot of distorted guitar playing from Dann Pichette that ranges from psychedelic to melodic to heavy! This song actually sums up SBD's musical style pretty well with how it meshes their styles together! The song slows down a touch in the middle, but it never loses it's pacing. The various guitar solo sections aren't highly technical, but have nice melodies, while Shane Triplett's drumming really stands out, and Brad Griffith shows off some nice bass lines throughout! "Ess" is never boring or predictable, only really lagging at the end, which seemed to drone on and on before it actually came to a close. But as an opening song, it gives a great insight into how SBD will sound, sans vocals of course!
Second is "Rio Bravo", the first song on this CD with vocals, and it starts with a nice galloping bass solo from Brad that actually calls a Western movie to mind, a'la the title! When the song picks up, it does lose that Western feel to their more hard rocking sound, but it still gives the feel that you're moving or riding ahead as you listen. Dann's vocals have a nice grungy tone to them, a'la some of No Arrow's better songs, but they're not mixed terribly high, and I found myself missing certain words underneath the riffing. I also found it unique that the choruses tended to be a bit softer and slower than the verses, when usually, it's the other way around. That being said, the band are playing some great stuff during the verses, which continues it's galloping heavy sound for the most part! Though a touch repetitive, I really like this song, except for the last couple of minutes. It almost brought to mind the end of the charge, so to speak, if we're gonna talk in Western movie terms. "Rio Bravo" just gradually got slower and really started to drone on and on. So, aside from the endings of both, the first two songs are scoring high!
Third is one of my personal favourite SBD songs, "It Just Won't Work", which I've been a fan of for months now! And I think one of the reasons I like this song is the sheer unpredictability of it. It starts with a bouncy psychedelic verse with softer melodic singing, and then WHAM! The song picks up in speed and heaviness at a VERY fast and moshable rate while Dann repeatedly yells, what else? "It just won't work!!" The whole song has that slow/fast mentality, like they pushed a "Rapid Fire" button right before each chorus. The lyrics are pretty entertaining too, and though the chorus is very repetitive, it goes by so fast and at such a pace that you don't notice. I love this song, but I think a guitar solo (placed at an unpredicatable spot) would really push it over the edge. Still, it's a standout track on "Sonic Experiments: Mulligan Edition" that you'll wanna check out!
Next, we have "Delchgobah", which clocks in at 9:42, and believe it or not, there are two songs longer than this on the CD! This is another instrumental, and it starts slowly with some guitar distortion effects, a slow but effective bassline, and some nice drumming. It's varied enough to hold my interest, but it could stand to be chopped down a bit. After about 90 seconds, Dann plays some more normal bouncy guitar melodies and solos, but the song goes on at about the same rate. It's never boring, but it feels stretched out too far. Only after 3:30 does it start to adjust it's sound, as Brad and Shane become more prominent before the song gets very isolated and quiet about midway through, staying that way throughout. It has a very deliberate sound, but not terribly exciting either. The last couple of minutes pick up as the guitar playing gets a bit faster and more varied, helping end the song on a high note! This is another good song, with lots of creative experimental touches, but it feels overly long, and I think it could easily be cut to 5 minutes and still accomplish the same goals.
The fifth song on the CD is "Kick In The Crotch", and it starts with a solo drum section followed by repeated singing of the song's title along with some bass licks that sound very 1970s, if that's appropriate. This is one of the most offbeat songs on the album, with Dann's vocals alternating between very "interesting" spoken word passages, and saying "Kick In The Crotch" repeatedly, as the same backing instrumentation accompanies this. Then, the song changes completely as it gets way more experimental and insane, with relentless drumming, loads of guitar distortion, and a complete removal of the vocals we had heard. Not everyone will appreciate that turn, but I liked it, it felt like chaos was ensuing! The last 90 seconds are another change in sound, with slow guitar distortion, a low bass riff, and constant drumming taking center stage in a more orderly, but still experimental fashion. This song also falls into the same complaint area I had a few times earlier, an ending that just dragged on and on, but this song still works on an amusing and unpredictable angle, especially the chaotic center!
Track six is "Sliced Bacon Delivers", a short but relentlessly heavy number that packs loads of metal into an awesome 1:47 stretch of music! The song grabs you and doesn't let go, with Dann's voice holding up well to deliver harsh singing with some rangier portions! The guitar is actually so heavy and loud that it sounds distorted by accident, so it's actually hard to hear at points. I think they should have mixed the guitar down to counter that. The guitar solo also sounds a touch off too. Only after 80 seconds does the band tone things down a bit, getting a touch slower with some softer singing, but it doesn't last long before it unloads the heaviness to cap the song off! I definitely love this song, it's heavy as hell and pulls no punches, but the overly loud guitars do hurt it a bit. It's followed by another instrumental, "Into The Unknown", which begins with a nice drum solo from Shane before slowing down into a very mysterious sort of opening, with deliberately slow paced & spaced out riffing and rhythm sections, almost ominous at points. It maintains this sound for most of the song, with guitar effects and a low bass line common throughout, but Shane is the star of this song to me. Early and late in the song, his drumming is fast, varied, and technical, and he helps give the song energy it was otherwise lacking. I appreciate it's pacing, and it has sort of a feel like you're in the "unknown", but aside from Shane's drumming, it's not one of my favourites.
Eighth on the CD yet another instrumental, "Boxology", which starts with another drum solo from Shane, before settling into a slower bass-driven section. Eventually, Dann took prominence on guitar with some nice guitar effects, adding to the slow experimental nature of this song. Nothing about "Boxology" screams of heaviness, this is a straight up experimental track that works to set it apart from earlier songs, which each had a level of "rock" to them. The ending, while long and drawn out, doesn't drag as much as on certain earlier songs, using some nice guitar playing and drumming to keep things interesting. This song works on it's chosen level, but if you're expecting heaviness, you won't find it here. Ninth is "The Seventeen Minute Song", which is very appropriately titled, because it does clock in at a little over 17 minutes in length, easily the longest on the album! It'd be impossible to concisely detail the entire song, but I'll say that it's another instrumental, and it ranges from a slower bass-heavy first couple of minutes to a very heavy stretch about midway through the song that's as chaotic as it is entertaining! It's not hard to sit through this song without trailing off, because it's so varied and creative, and certain patches do drag, but not for too long. Effects are used liberally, the drumming is awesome, and they show their creativity here nicely to fill out a 17 minute song! My biggest recommendation: Vocals, sections of this song could use them, but overall, it's a good, if ambitious number!
The tenth song is "Explanation Of The Universe", which is also a super long instrumental, with a run time of 16:37! Compared to "The Seventeen Minute Song", this one has a spacier feel to it, though it does start differently with a normal soft guitar opening. Once it picks up, the song makes good use of guitar effects alluding to science fiction-esque sounds, and retains that quality for most of the song! Especially in the middle, Dann makes great use of effects, with Brad and Shane keeping up with their own solid work throughout! That being said, while it's more unique than the the last song, it's also, in my opinion, not as good. It's an entertaining listen, but it's not as heavy on the whole. Also, the latter part of the song drags, except for some spacy guitar work. It mostly stays on the experimental path, and I like the song, but I do prefer "The Seventeen Minute Song" on a personal basis. And again, this song could use some vocals, cause I imagine some weird trippy sort of singing about the universe could add to the feel!
Second last on "Sonic Experiments: Mulligan Edition" is "Space Filler", and the name is fitting, cause it does feel like that. It's well played, but it drones along for five minutes of slow placed low tuned music, and it doesn't feel like it accomplishes much. It's another instrumental, and it really doesn't engage me on the whole. The only parts where it doesn't seem to glide along low notes is in some noisy guitar sections that seem to crash around more than keep a melody. This is definitely the lowpoint of the CD, but maybe the band realizes that. After all, it is entitled "Space Filler"! The album ends with "Rubber Hose/Throwing Pies", which clocks in at an album low 57 seconds, and if you were hoping for an up tempo closer, then you'll likely be disappointed. It's a folksy soft song that finally returns singing to the album, with Dann playing guitar and singing about some very "interesting" subjects in a low clean tone that sounds slightly odd. Glad to see a non-instrumental, but this plays more like an intro than an album closer.
So how do I grade SBD's "Mulligan Edition" of "Sonic Experiments"? Well, I have to say, I liked a lot of it, but it's not a perfect album. There's good stuff on here, from the unpredictable heaviness of "It Just Won't Work" to the relentless nature of "Sliced Bacon Delivers", SBD showed that they can be as heavy as they are unique, while they let their music do the talking on instrumentals like "Ess" and "The Seventeen Minute Song"! I know people who don't know SBD very well will want to compare them to No Arrow, but on most songs, it's inaccurate. Yes, you have Dann and Brad there, but there's a lot more trippy experimental fare than No Arrow ever thought of having. Dann makes great use of guitar distortion, and they make use of a lot of unique riffing, solos, and effects to make each song different and unique! Brad's an underrated bassist, he knows what he's doing and can make some really nice lines! But to me, the biggest surprise of the three band members was Shane Triplett, who drummed with a lot of ferocity and speed on most songs, and his energy was constant, even on a slower song like "Into The Unknown"! When they were on, they were on, and they gave a unique twist to what could have ended up as familiar material in other hands, so kudos in that respect! Note that if you're not into experimental stuff with weird structures and effects, then this won't be your cup of tea.
As I said, it's not a perfect album. Too many songs had a dragged out ending that never seemed to wrap up quickly enough, and a few songs, notably "Delchgobah", felt overly long. I was surprised by the lack of songs featuring vocals as well. Only 5 songs feature Dann's singing, and they amount to around 16 minutes of the album. The rest of it was completely instrumentals, and though I'm not opposed to that, I missed hearing Dann's voice! Most of the instrumentals are solid, but they really started to trail off late. After "The Seventeen Minute Song", the excitement level seemed to get gradually lower, and ended the CD on the wrong note, when they could have moved a faster paced song to the end to close the album on a high. That disappointed me a bit, because they had so many moments earlier when they successfully wowed me with their unpredictable experimental far melded with grungy hard rock, and yet it ended so flat. It also would have been nice to see some live favourites like "Rock Paper Scissors" or "Pow! Right In The Kisser", but hey, they could be on a future album! So, while I have obvious reservations, SBD is as SBD does! I did enjoy "Sonic Experiments: Mulligan Edition", which has a lot of unique music that you don't get locally, and some songs are likely to get you moving, one way or another!
And there's my SBD review, do check out their CD and see what you think! So, what's my next review? Well, for the first time in four months, I know exactly what my next review will be, as I will take a look at Sykotyk Rampage's brand new 23rd studio album, "Bella Disgusta"! This promises to be another unique addition to the local metal scene, so watch out for that review in the coming week! The new release season is off and running, and there's much more in store for the next few months, so be here throughout the fall and beyond for more local metal and hard rock CD, EP, and album reviews! That's all for today, but stay tuned for the new review, our "Where Are The New Albums?" update post, a review of Thursday's Endast show, and much more in the very near future!