Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bad Side - "...Bad Things Come In Threes" Review!!

It's time once again for another CD review at The Sault Metal Scene! With no new local album releases imminent, we'll dip into the archives once again this month. This is a landmark in that it's both our 20th CD review since we started monthly album reviews in July 2009, and it's the first time we're reviewing a third album from a local band! The band in question is the now defunct Sault Michigan classic hard rock quartet Bad Side, and today, we're reviewing their third and final studio album, "...Bad Things Come In Threes"! Released in August 2008 through Vicious Music, this album was also recorded at Hitmakers Digital Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just like for their first two albums. As was the case on prior releases, Melissa Krahnke provided vocals (as well as saxophone and keyed instruments), Jason Mapes handled the guitar, backing vocals, and some keyboard work, while longtime studio collaborators Rich Blair & Dan Furmanik covered bass and drums respectively. I believe this album was self-produced, but it was completely mixed and mastered by noted producer Beau Hill, who's worked with everyone from Alice Cooper to Warrant, so you know things will sound good!

With the band now broken up, their albums are all currently out of print. Limited quantities of "Bad Side III" are still available to purchase through their CD Baby page (along with mp3 copies) for $9.99 or less. I recommend a CD, as you'll get more for your money, so head there A.S.A.P.! Their albums are also all available on iTunes, and certain other internet sites will have "...Bad Things Come In Threes" and the first two albums for sale in CD and digital formats, though I recommend CD Baby and iTunes. Grooves Music in Sault Michigan may have some copies left in stock too, but I'm not certain. If you want to stream the songs before buying, their official YouTube channel has 10 of the songs from their last album, but please buy it and show some support! There's 12 songs with around 53 minutes of material on "Bad Side III", so let's begin with the first track, "I Could Make You Want Me"! (Updated on November 8th, 2012)

To start the album, Bad Side were wise to lead off with "I Could Make You Want Me", as it's one of those songs that seems to really encapsulate their sound! Classic hard rock goodness, you can't too wrong with that! Jason Mapes' guitar works stands out from the start, I like his riffing, and the overall groove of the song is very catchy! Melissa Krahnke's soulful voice is back in form, but I have to say, I think she was more reserved vocally than she could have been. Her singing for the most part is in lower register and doesn't convey a lot of excitement that I assumed the opening track would have. Jason's solo on here is short, which was a recurring problem on "Bad Side II", but hopefully this won't be a continuing trend from their last album. Rich and Dan are perfectly fine on bass and drums also, they add to the song well! I can't really say too much about "I Could Make You Want Me" though, it's classic Bad Side! No major risks, nothing horrible, it's a solid opener, and it's better suited for this position in the track listing than "Living In Fear" was on their last CD. I have a feeling the best is yet to come!

Second is "Dig That Hooch", and I have to say, I immediately liked this song thanks to the riff! Very heavy, it gives me some nice hope for this track! The promise continues into the first verse, as Melissa's singing is much more animated and energetic, and it suits the tone the song has set! There isn't one bad element of the song... until the chorus. The chorus doesn't seem to fit the song as well as I expected. I think it's the guitar, which suddenly seems to play at a different style than the song had previously, and it doesn't gel. Hard to explain. Jason's solo is great though, even if it's short, I really like the stuff he was playing in this one! This is definitely better than "I Could Make You Want Me", and you could say I'm really "digging the hooch". Yeah, I know that's bad. If the chorus was made heavier and less "upbeat" with the guitar, it'd be even better, but all things considered, it's a great song, and gives me good hopes for the rest of the album!

The keyboard work we often saw on Bad Side's first two albums returns on track three, "Give It Till Night", and it's a constant throughout the song! Honestly, I think it takes away from the track, though it has an old school flair that reminds me of the keyboard work from a Doors like band. Melissa's really good at the keyboard, but we hear too much of the same from it constantly, and I think the song would stand better without it. The keyboard solo isn't bad, but a guitar solo would have been nice too. It's not as heavy as the opening songs, but it's more melodic, and Melissa shows her range really well with some softer singing sections that I'd love to hear more! There's some nice galloping guitar here halfway through the verses, and Dan Furmanik's drumming is the best I've heard so far as well! Of Bad Side's songs with piano or keyboards, this definitely isn't their best (not as good as "Lie", at least), but it has a nice melody, and it's not a bad song, just repetitive and not as heavy as I'd have hoped. The fourth song, "Dead On", immediately seems like Bad Side threw a lot of styles together and hoped it would mesh, to mixed results. The guitar work is slow and methodical, the keyboard seems very light and soft, and the singing is heavy and aggressive. It seems like tracks from a few songs were slapped together, and nothing seems to flow and mesh like you'd assume. I do like Jason's use of pinch harmonics, Melissa sounds really good, and Rich's bass lines are solid, but nothing seems like it mixes together very well, and the lack of a guitar solo and the abrupt ending don't help either. Good song, but definitely not Bad Side's best, and they really should have focused on one element of the band and wrote a complete song that matched it.

Fifth on "...Bad Things Come In Threes" is "Shame To Waste It", which returns the band to what they do best, rock out with some classic influenced hard rock! I like Dan's drum intro, and the guitar riffing is really good, even if it is a bit slow. Melissa's singing is at it's bluesy best on this song, though she could have added some more singing to the choruses. There's even a harmonica sounding interlude, giving the song a southern feel, though it did take the place of a guitar solo. The only part of the song that I really feel is distracting is the dragged out ending, which seems forced to lengthen the track, though Melissa's vocals help break it up. This is one of the better songs so far on the CD, though I'd still put "Dig That Hooch" just a bit above it! This is followed by "Hold On", which starts with an organ intro giving a sort of choir vibe to the opening. Unexpected but original, it's nice to see a different sound here and there! When the song launches into full band mode, I'm glad to note that the organ actually adds to the song well, giving the best keyed instrument use of the album so far! It actually drowns out some of the instrumentation, but at least it flows with the material! Melissa's singing works for the tone of "Hold On", but her lyrics get repetitive at points. I'd like to see punched up guitar too, it feels like an afterthought for much of the track. It's not a very heavy song, but it's the best of the keyboard/organ tracks so far, and it has an epic quality at points, so thumbs up!

The second half of the CD begins with "Hit Me", which has a great heavy opening, and that continues into the first verse! This song also includes keyboard playing, but it's almost inconsequential to the song, and doesn't add or subtract anything from it. This another solid bluesy hard rocker, and definitely a highlight track on the album. Melissa's at her bluesy best here, though some widening of her range could boost the song as a whole. Jason's on fire with his riffing, he has an ear for catchy guitar work! Dan Furmanik's drumming is solid and purposeful, and the use of backing vocals is a nice addition! It's a wonder they didn't include backing vocals more on earlier tracks! Jason's finally got another guitar solo here too, which is well played, but again, too short. Another solid song, definitely one of Bad Side's best so far, hopefully there's more like this to come! Eighth is "Run Home", which restores some of the horror movie feel from "Bad Side II's" "Living In Fear", thanks to the piano playing, which gives a creepy vibe like you're being chased. You'd have to hear it to understand. Melissa sounds almost reserved on this track, but I imagine that's part of the vibe she's trying to give to the song. The solo is the best part of the song actually, which is actually fairly long for a change, and adds some much needed heaviness to "Run Home"! I appreciate the atmosphere being attempted here, but I think they placed too much emphasis on the vibe the piano gives, except for Jason's solo. So while it's uneven, it has some really good elements!

Song number nine is "Better Start Walkin'", which actually begins with around 20 seconds of acapella singing. Bluesy but heavy, I expected this to launch into a hard rocker, but it's actually an acoustic song! This has the feel of an unplugged blues song, and I can picture the band sitting on stools playing this to a small audience. It's well played, but I'd like to have seen a complete and total acoustic ballad from Bad Side before they broke up. Melissa has nice soft singing that would work for that if she chose to use it, I remember hearing it more on their debut. Here, it's more of her singing in her heavy blues style over a song that doesn't 100% work for it. Plus, the song does get fairly repetitive, despite it being the album's shortest track. It works for what it is, but for an unplugged track, they could have altered a few things. Tenth is "Government Cheese", which brings the talkbox effects back that we saw on songs like "My Math Teacher Is A Nazi". Like that song, this one takes a humourously critical approach, this time attacking and criticizing an unnamed politician. Nice to see the band getting some comedy back on this album, and there's some interesting passages about what Melissa wants the politician to promise. Jason uses the talkbox to it's fullest here, including on a "solo" that actually came out well! Solid hard rocker with some funny moments, this is definitely one of my personal favourites!

The penultimate song of Bad Side's last CD is "Have You Any Fear", which is a slower heavy number, and the piano in this song actually adds to everything for a change! Melissa's on top form vocally, sounding soulful and melodic like we've come to expect! Richs bass is fairly good here, and the song works despite not being very fast or energetic. It has a purposeful pace and a lot of passion, though again, a guitar solo would add to the song. At 5:17, this is the CD's longest song, but it honestly doesn't feel like it, and doesn't drag at all. "Have You Any Fear" shows off Melissa's piano work really well, but the song does wrap around it too much, and it's not really a memorable lasting tune past the piano parts. Good song though! Bad Side closed their final album in a fast and hard rocking way with "What I Know Is Mine", and this is a great way to cap off the CD! It's a fast paced hard charging number that doesn't retain a lot of their bluesy influences, but has great energy! Singing's good, guitar's heavy, the keyboard adds to the song, and it's a fun closer to the album! I'd like to have seen more of a guitar solo, but the keyboard solo works well enough. Though it's a good song, I miss the bluesy feel that so many of their past songs retained, with only Melissa's vocal tone helping retain that at all. The ending's abrupt too, but really, their end as a band felt that way as well, so it's oddly fitting. Great song though, despite it's difference from older songs, and it's still a nice rocking way to end this album!

So what's the verdict on Bad Side's final CD? Honestly, it's much the same as "Bad Side II", I kind of see these albums on the same level. Both have many great moments but an uneven quality. "...Bad Things Come In Threes" only really seems different in the more serious tone that the album takes as a whole, with less humourous moments than they had on their second album. With that said, the band sound great as they did before! Melissa's deep soulful vocals continued to add a nice quality to their material, and she'll be missed locally now that she's moved on as a radio DJ in Pennsylvania. I'd loved to have heard more of her soft ballad-esque singing, but her range and tone kept things sounding good throughout this CD! Jason Mapes continued to impress on guitar, despite the amount of shorter-than-hoped guitar solos. Though his music career continues with Nashville-based solo work, his proficiency and songwriting skills will be missed locally as well! Rich Blair was consistently good on each song without fail, and Dan Furmanik's drumming was also solid, with lots of loud and proficient playing! Look for both on Jason's upcoming solo material as well. These four had good chemistry in-studio, and Beau Hill's mixing made things sound great, as we had come to expect from "Bad Side II"!

As I said though, it's uneven. Jason's guitar solos were often too short (save for on "Run Home"), Melissa could have used her range better on some songs, and the use of keyed instruments was a detraction for one too many tracks. Songs like "Give It Till Night", "Dead On", and "Better Start Walkin'" were examples of songs that had good elements, but were too flawed to be standout tracks. But when they were on, they were REALLY on! "Dig That Hooch", "Hit Me", and "Government Cheese" showed the side that I still think Bad Side were best at: Classic hard rock with a healthy blues influence. They did it at their best abilities, and with no regrets! Bad Side described the sound of this album as "hard rock with melody and a punch that will crack a rib", which is definitely true for at least most of the songs on "...Bad Things Come In Threes"! I wouldn't say they were the most consistent band in terms of sound, but they took risks, and I applaud that. With their demise, the best we can hope for in the future is their upcoming DVD release (if it's still on) and maybe a reunion down the road, but for the time being, this serves as a very satisfying closing statement for Bad Side's six year run, which fans new and old should appreciate! Check this CD out, and best of luck to Melissa, Jason, Rich, Dan, and every other former Bad Side member in the future!

And so concludes our 20th CD review! So what's being reviewed on the SMS next month? Well, here's what I'm planning. If one of the many local bands with an album/EP/CD in the works releases theirs by March 26th, I'll review that, and if two or more release one, I'll review the most prominent of the two. The only exception will be for any possible new material from Mike Haggith, as it'll be too soon from my review of "Suspended Animation". If nothing new comes out, I will post our first archive review of a Sault Ontario band's album since June. Which one though? Well, keeping with my attempted trend of tying in features and posts with upcoming concerts, my plan is to review Woods of Ypres' debut EP "Against The Seasons: Cold Winter Songs From The Dead Summer Heat"! I haven't reviewed a Woods of Ypres CD since December 2009, and with a show scheduled for next month, it only makes sense! Of course, this will only happen if nothing new comes out by late March, so stay tuned for updates on that front! So there you go, our next review will either be "Woods I" or something new!

That's all for now, but I'll have more news for you guys tomorrow! Thanks everyone!

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