Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Din - "Suburban Dream" Review!!

For our 102nd monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, we're finally taking a look at defunct local alternative/hard rock trio The Din's second and final studio album "Suburban Dream"! Though independently released on October 21st during their CD release/farewell concert at LopLops Lounge, we held our review until December due to having just reviewed "The Din Does Laundry" in June, as to avoid any bias accusations. Recorded at Pretoria Hill Productions with producers Daniel Schmidt and frontman Mike Haggith earlier this year, this album was somewhat abruptly recorded once The Din opted to disband this fall. Mike performs vocals & bass as usual, and is once again joined here by guitarist Tammy Hill (Daniel's daughter) and drummer Brandan Glew on all tracks. Copies of "Suburban Dream" were available for $10 at the farewell show and through band members, but they were advertised as a limited print run of just 50 copies. However, the album can be bought digitally on Bandcamp for $5, as well as streamed for free there.

If you have any hope of buying a CD copy, I'd contact band members on social media in case they happen to have any extant copies left, but I wouldn't assume they didn't sell them out. With 9 tracks running for 39 minutes in length, let's begin our final CD review of 2017!

The album begins with "Give Me A Reason", which has an up-tempo hard rock opening and nice audible bass, and it has a nice groove to it! Right away, I will note that Mike's vocals seem to be mixed a little high, but he sings with confidence, and uses his deep singing voice well. The guitar riffing is solid, and Tammy's guitar solo (while brief) gets the job done nicely! My big complaint is with the repetitive singing of the song's title in the choruses, which especially stands out on one of the CD's shorter tracks, but overall, a solid opener for this album! Second is "High Park", with Mike leading off with a nice showcase of slow bass picking and some more melancholy singing, with the mood remaining mid-tempo and deliberate throughout. Since it's live debut, I've disliked the "oooooh" vocals on the choruses, but on this version, only the first chorus has that, so it's an improvement! The best parts to me are the slight bumps in intensity before each chorus, and it's a good talent showcase for everyone, but I prefer their faster and more rock-based originals.

Next on the album is it's longest song, "Up In The Air", which opens with some solid drumming from Brandan before the full band kicks in, with the song's composition being a fair amount lighter and more reserved, almost like it's The Din took influence from City & Colour or a similar act. Honestly, this song would match well with an airplane flight (possibly intentionally?) I don't think the vocal harmonizing works as well here, but the leisurely pace works for what it is, and Tammy acclimates well for her guitar solo. For what it is, it's a nice change of pace and well written, but fans of their heavier songs may want to look elsewhere. "35's The Limit" is up next, which opens with a catchy bass lick and chugging guitar riff that helps easily identify this one to even casual fans. A return to their heavier roots, the song has some chorus vocals that are reminiscent of "High Park", but it's more of a complete song to me, even if Tammy's guitar solo is over before it really begins. Not a bad rocker, and with some unique verse instrumentation too!

The next four tracks are among The Din's last to be debuted live, including "Weekend Delivery", easily the CD's shortest song. Easily the softest and most ballad-like song of the album, this one feels like a natural evolution from "Up In The Air" (why not have it right after in the order?) Honestly, this song would probably work better as a true solo performance, as it sounds a little cluttered given it's pacing, but it's a good palate cleanser that fans of Mike & The Din's softer sides should enjoy! Also, did anyone else hear Brandan (I assume) saying 'I'm sorry" 85 seconds in? That's followed by "Missing", which is a mid-tempo rocker that bears some similarities to "High Park", but with stronger, fully sung choruses. Mike sings in a lower register for much of this track, which suits the mood, and Brandan has solid drumming in particular, and while the bassy richness helps things out, I do prefer The Din at a faster and more upbeat pace from other tracks. Not a bad number though!

Song #7 is "In The Moonlight", which has another melancholy intro from Mike that shows off his lyrical emotion and bass skill nicely, including some fitting vocal adjustments that really accentuate his range! The slow burn to full band involvement is well done, with Brandan's drumming well suited by the second chorus, and Tammy's guitar solo also fits like a glove! Unlike on "Weekend Delivery" this is an example of mashing the full band with an emotional softer performance that compliments itself without seeming too forced, and for that reason, it is honestly one of the better tracks on "Suburban Dream" (in my opinion!) The penultimate song on the album is "The Price That You Pay", which has the essence of a 1970s prog rock ballad for it's instrumentation, which hopefully isn't off base to say. This isn't hurt by featuring a keyboard prominently, and while Mike's vocals are melodic and strong, they build nicely into the choruses, and I like the dramatic tension that the song contains. Solid work all around, with a grandiose feel that calls to mind Mike's "Present Din" solo album at times, and it's a late highlight on this album!

This CD and The Din's studio recording career ends with it's title track "Suburban Dream", which brings things to a hard rocking conclusion with a fast Foo Fighters-esque pace that fans will surely take to! Nothing shocking to report here, it's a fun track that gives Tammy a nice showcase on guitar, and the upbeat mood is nice to see after the prior four tracks, and everyone performs to their best! My big complaint is just a nitpick: the backing vocal "Woah" and "Yeah" on the chorus are out of place and took me out of the rhythm. Fun closer to end the album & the band on a high note!

So, what are my final thoughts on The Din's final studio album? Well, it's a solid closer to their run that showcases their musical range nicely, from fast and upbeat to slow and serious! Aside from being entirely comprised of originals (their first CD was almost half re-recordings of Mike's old projects), the biggest difference here was the tonal shift, with much of the album taking on a softer and somewhat darker tone, especially on those four late songs that debuted in late-period concerts, though they may have reflected the band's imminent demise. Songs like "The Price That You Pay" really demonstrated that side at it's apex, but "Give Me A Reason" & "35's The Limit" were more my style musically. Everyone performed strongly on this album, with Mike Haggith's singing never sounding better (and his bass matching that), Tammy Hill's guitar work flowing well from sound to sound, and Brandan Glew's drumming a consistent compliment with some key timing and rhythmic moments along the way!

It would have been nice to have seen maybe one or two old originals of Mike's on the album ("We Met As Surrogates" being the obvious snub), and some of the choruses and backing vocal choices weren't optimal for the song's structure, but for their final album, you can't complain too much. Musically, I do prefer "Give In To The Din" for it's added focus on heavy and upbeat originals, but "Suburban Dream" is a fitting sendoff, and well worth it for fans to check out, and you can do so at the above links!

I hope you guys liked our final CD review of 2017, but what's coming to start 2018 next month? It's too soon to guess at this point, but here's what I do know. A new metal, hard rock, or punk album would get first preference, and this month's "Where Are The New Albums?" post from this past Saturday will give hints as to what could be out next. Assuming nothing is by month's end, we'd dip into the archives for our next review, but it will not be one of Mike's old band Haggith's unreviewed CDs, as we're still within our 6 month anti-bias buffer period from our last review of theirs. If it's an archive review, we will tie it in with a local band or artist playing live in January 2018 if at all possible, so stay tuned over the next 2 months for ideas in that regard, as we have a lot of possibilities to draw from! That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and weekend concert preview on the site soon! Thanks everyone!

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