Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Frightlight - "It's A...Live!" Review!!

Guess what time it is? It's time for our seventeenth monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and as promised, we'll take a look at the live debut album from local horror punk/metal quartet Frightlight! Fittingly entitled "It's A...Live!", it was independently released on October 30th, and was recorded live at the band's July 10th concert at the old Coch's Corner. Local progressive rock musician Nick Jackson produced the album at Spacehouse Studios in London, England over the summer of 2010. The band's lineup on the CD includes frontman J.D. Pearce (a.k.a. Johnny Pints), guitarist Rick "Styles" White, bassist Mike Gingras (a.k.a. Eddie Fright), and former drummer Jeff "Shrek Ogre" Richards, who left the band about a month after this concert. You can pick this album up for just $10 at Frightlight's concerts (with new purple-tinted artwork), or you can download a band-endorsed torrent of it at this location, so pick your poison for local horror punk! Note as well that songs from the CD are streamable at their online pages, notably on MySpace. Essentially a live EP, "It's A...Live!" features 6 songs clocking in at just under 20 minutes total, so let's begin this review with the first song, "Fright Night"! (Updated on September 29th, 2012)

To start, I have to give a lot of credit to Nick Jackson for his production job on "It's A...Live!" As soon as you listen to the first song, "Fright Night", you can immediately see that this was excellently produced, almost to the point where the songs actually sound different thanks to their clarity! This song tends to be Frightlight's concert opener, and it's a fast rocking horror punk song with a lot of Misfits influence, and that sure seems intentional! It's a very catchy song, and the chorus has me instantly singing along, if nothing else! It's short but to the point, with a constant charging guitar riff and solid performance throughout! You'd think that, because this is a live album, it'd be easy to compare to their concerts, but the production quality almost negates that. With that said, Johnny Pints' vocals don't sound as aggressive in the verses as I remember from more recent shows, and it does seem a tad slow compared to more recent live versions of the song. But as a hard rocking punk number, it does exactly what it's supposed to, and it's a great signature song for Frightlight, though the lyrics are a tad repetitive.

Next up is the only cover on "It's A...Live!", and it's "Rust Angel", originally by J.D. and Rick's old band Fitswitch! Personally, I think a Fitswitch song like "March of 1,000 Corpses" would better suit their horror theme, but this works well enough! As a comparison point, I went back and listened to the original Fitswitch version of this song from 2005's "Rust Angel EP", and with all due respect to Fitswitch, the Frightlight version is WAY better in production and musical quality! This is sort of a surf punk song, which is odd when you consider the general style of both Fitswitch and Frightlight, but they pull it off! I had remarked last year that this song didn't have the rawness and edge of other Fitswitch songs, but this version has a bit of a heavier bite to it. Johnny's vocals on this version make better use of his range, and the riffing style here makes the older "surf" elements seem a bit creepier, if that makes sense. Rick's guitar solo here is solid but the best is yet to come, and Eddie's bass lines are nice! But overall, I do want heaviness and relentlessness from this type of music, and Frightlight do have songs that better reflect that for my tastes. Still, this is a good song and it noticeably improves on the Fitswitch studio version!

Third is my favourite Frightlight song, "She Screams"! It was my favourite going in, and it's my favourite after hearing this version too! It's probably their heaviest song on the EP, and I just love it's energy and aggression! The chorus is very catchy, and the guitar riffs from Rick Styles are top notch! The solo's really good also, he does his best musical work on guitar, and this is proof! Johnny's vocals are at their hard rocking best here, never sounding forced or wavery, and he controls the song well! Shrek's drumming is great here as well. The only thing I'd ask of this song is a bit more lyrical variety, but that's minor in an otherwise ripping track that deserves some moshpits! After that, we got introductions of the band from Johnny Pints, followed by their original song "Dead Town Everywhere", which is a solid song in it's own right! Not as heavy and aggressive as "She Screams", but it's more of a punk song too, and it works on that level. The most distinctive part of this song to me is the chorus, featuring Rick and Eddie on backing vocals, which works well to sing along with! The riffing is nice and melodic, and the lyrics aren't as repetitive as on certain other songs, but being that it's more of a punk song, it may not appeal to as many metalheads. Luckily, I do like punk, and this song works very well for me! It's one of their better songs, do check it out!

Fifth on the EP is "They All Float", which begins with a cool bass line from Eddie Fright before launching into a solid punk rocker that seems a bit reserved compared to older originals. The chorus especially gives that vibe, but the chorus does pick up with a nice punk swagger and some cool lyrics! I think a guitar solo could have helped this song, as it does lag a bit later on, especially with the down and more drawn out pacing. At 3:56, it's the album's longest track, and it honestly feels like it, for better or worse. I'm all for setting different moods, but the verses got a bit monotonous after a while. Maybe if the riffing was heavier and more distorted? Luckily, the chorus makes this song work, thanks to some passionate singing and solid use of backing vocals! "It's A...Live!" closes with "C.H.U.D.", which stands for "Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers". That's easy to figure out as the chorus of this song is simply that repeated over and over, and that's my only real gripe with this song. Aside from the repetitive chorus, this is a fast paced energetic punk number with awesome riffing and nice aggressive vocals! Johnny's channeling his best angry voice here, and the drumming is spot on throughout! Rick's solo's nice here too, but it could have lasted a bit longer. This song charges through without letting up, and it succeeds at being a heavy and well played closer to the EP, and the concert too!

So how do I rate "It's A...Live!"? Well, on a sheer musical scale, you don't get a lot of horror punk or Misfits-influenced stuff in Sault Ste. Marie, so just on that basis, this succeeds! Some fans will still be liable to compare Frightlight to Fitswitch, but this is a whole other animal. Yes, Frightlight cover "Rust Angel" and feature two ex-Fitswitch members, but that's as far as it should get. The idea of recording a debut album live at a concert is in itself a unique proposition, but with Nick Jackson at the controls, everything sounded fantastic! That being said, if there was an aim to preserve the concert feel on the EP, then I don't think it totally succeeded. The two second blank spaces between tracks really broke up the concert atmosphere (albums don't have to have them, our Kiss live CD set is proof), and with just six songs, it felt like it wrapped up too quickly. I know that royalty issues come in to play concerning their Misfits covers and such, but they did play their original "Dead Skin Mask" (not the Slayer song) at this show, and it didn't make the cut. I figure it'd have been nice to include, even if it's very different from their other originals. After just 20 minutes of music, I was hoping to hear more, but hey, maybe that will come on a future album!

But above all else, the music we did get should be front and center, and Frightlight played it very well! Johnny Pints made the most of his voice to give each song a punk attitude with a metal aggressiveness, and Rick Styles laid down some great horror punk riffs himself! I just wish there was more solos. Eddie Fright's bass work was solid throughout, especially on "Rust Angel" and "They All Float", while Shrek Ogre shown his great drum talents on every song, never having a bad moment! Jeff De Rose is doing well so far as their new drummer, but Shrek's missed! The metalhead in me still thinks "She Screams" is the disc's standout track, but there is no duds to be seen here, especially for you horror punk fans! The lyrics (which sadly aren't in the packaging) can be repetitive, but they effectively capture horror movie atmospheres and scenarios while remaining true to a punk/metal style! Repetition is my biggest hangup with "It's A...Live", but aside from that, it's a great first look at Frightlight, who have a lot of promise! Just as long as they keep doing what they're doing, cause they have a unique look and sound that this town honestly doesn't have enough of! Fans of The Misfits, Fitswitch, or any old school punk rock, look no further than Frightlight, they might just be what you're craving!

So there's this month's album review, but what's in store for our final monthly CD review of 2010? Well, here's my breakdown. If a new local album comes out in time for a review by December 10th, I will likely review that album, and if more than one find their way to stores by then, the most prominent of the released CDs will get the review. If Sykotyk Rampage release one of their new albums by then, I'll likely hold off on reviewing it until March or so to avoid reviewing two of their albums too close together. If nothing new from a local metal/hard rock band comes out by December 10th, I have a plan in mind to review another older album from a Sault Michigan hard rock band. I won't say which one yet, but I will say that it's NOT Bad Side's "...Bad Things Come In Threes". That review will likely be next year, as it'll be too soon after my "Bad Side II" review for me to consider it for next month. So, get speculating, cause even I don't know what exactly we'll be reviewing next!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for a new news post and weekend concert previews very soon! Thanks everyone!

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