Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jack Spades - "The First" EP Review!!

For our last auto-post before I head back home, here's our 59th monthly CD review at the SMS, as we're taking a look at Sault Ontario punk/metal quintet Jack Spades' debut EP "The First"! Released independently in digital formats on April 20th (with it's physical release coming a month later on May 16th), this disc was recorded earlier this year with producer Jamie Vincent (AlgomA) and was later mixed in Peterborough by veteran local musician Mark Rand. The EP features the band's current lineup, including J.D. Pearce (credited under his Frightlight stage name Johnny Pints) on vocals, alongside his T-Rex Manning bandmate Tiffany Stocco (credited as T.S. Spades) and Jesse Cook (The Elements) on guitar, with Bear Hunters bandmates Justin Lam and Johnny Belanger on bass & drums respectively. Physical copies cost $10 upon their initial physical release, but that may vary in later scenarios, while you can buy the full EP on their Bandcamp page for $4, so pick it up at the above links or to inquire about CD copies!

Featuring 5 songs (including one cover, all linked to their Bandcamp copies) and clocking in at just under 13 minutes in length, this will be a short review, so let's get things going with the first song, "They Live"! Inspired by the Roddy Piper movie of the same name, this is the EP's shortest song, but it packs a lot into it's 102 second length, harbouring more of a traditional punk sound compared to many of J.D.'s recent band originals! The production helps give a nice clear angle on this fast paced original, with rapid-fire vocals, a no-nonsense instrumental sound, and very solid drumming from Johnny, but I will admit that the song sounds slightly rushed, and you do lose some of the on-stage attitude in a studio setting. Very nice opener though! The 2 minute "Rise" is second, and after a catchy chugging riff and solid drumming to open the song, it settles into an interesting contrast with relentless music and casual vocals that do compliment each other well, with Jesse getting a solid showcase of his guitar solo ability! This will be more up metalheads' alley, though while it's an effective rocker that never bores, "They Live" arguably has more energy to it.

Third is "Breakneck Speed", which lives up to that name after a slow guitar intro by showcasing the members' metal chops and punk edge in equal measure! Jesse and Tiffany lay it down hard on guitar throughout, the backing vocals fit well, and Justin's bass is more than up to par! The song does start getting a bit repetitive near the end, but the name of the song sure isn't a lie, and it deftly marries the band's two genres without sacrificing either in the process! Definitely a highlight of "The First" so far! Fourth is a licensed cover of The Ripcordz' "X", which is also the EP's longest song, but how does this live favourite translate in studio? Very well, the guys play this at a fast and relentless pace with nice vocals and backup singing through the choruses, and everyone is up to the challenge instrumentally, with Johnny impressing on drums, and J.D.'s singing drives things in the right direction! I'm sure Paul and company would be happy with this cover!

Last on "The First" is their original "To The Left", which opens with dirty guitar riffing, relentless drumming, and a nice punk/metal vibe that suits everything, and it lives up to the standard of early tracks with a galloping edge and fast paced verses! The vocals have a catchy rhythm, and the guitar solo has a bouncy upbeat feel which translates to the latter stretch of the song as well! Another entertaining punk/metal hybrid to end the EP on a high note, though like on some earlier tracks, some of the live attitude is lost in studio. So, what are my final thoughts on Jack Spades' debut EP? I think this is a successful first foray into studio recordings for this relatively newer local band, with their punk & metal sounds coming through very nicely! To me, this is the best that one of J.D. Pearce's bands has sounded on a CD release, and his vocals fit well with a melodic style and heavy edge throughout each track! Jesse Cook and Tiffany Stocco stand out well on guitar, Justin Lam's bass skills are welcome, and Johnny Belanger's drumming is a constant force!

Though familiar to J.D.'s other bands like Fitswitch, Jack Spades come across here as more influenced by punk as a whole rather than The Misfits (though elements of them are present), and there's a fast paced melodic nature that should appeal to metal & punk fans alike, especially on songs like "Breakneck Speed"! If there are concerns, it's from how some of Jack Spades' live intensity and swagger doesn't translate to studio recordings, and the EP could have been lengthened by including songs like "Motorwolf" and "Frederick", but the title "The First" implies there will be a second. Very solid debut from Jack Spades, so be sure to do your part in jacking the planet by buying this EP via the above links! I hope you guys liked this month's album review, but what's coming next? In all likelihood, we'll be reviewing Mike Haggith's newest solo CD "A Place of Our Own" next month, but that's tentative pending what else comes out from heavier local bands (if anything), so stay tuned for updates on that front, and more news this coming week! Thanks everyone!

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