Saturday, November 16, 2013

SweetKenny - "Perception" Review!!

With our busy news stretch passed, now's a good time to post our 53rd monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, as we're taking a look at Dafter, Michigan hard rock artist Kenneth "SweetKenny" Sutton's sixth studio album "Perception"! His newest album as of this writing, I chose this one over the upcoming "Cracks In The Wall" (which was postponed to a November 22nd release date) due to it being heavier overall. Released for sale on June 30th, "Perception" was recorded at the Waterfall Recording Studio in Dafter earlier this year. Unlike on SweetKenny's previous album "Doo Hickey", Ken handles all instruments & programming, along with most vocals, with former Plastic/Bent Rollercoaster drummer Paul "Dorothy" Burns providing guest vocals on the second track. "Perception" can be bought for $9.99 in mp3 format (or $12.97 on CD) at this location, while all 10 tracks are available for a free stream at this link as well (each song title below is linked through there), though buy the whole album to support Ken's work! His longest 2013 album, "Perception" has 10 songs stretched across 44 minutes, so let's begin our review with the first song!

"Perception" begins with "Daddy's Little Girl", which begins with a hard driving riff that has a fast road trip feel, and Ken's vocals match the mood well, but his gritty tone doesn't strike me as the best use of his voice on this one. Relentless and quick song here, and it gives you the vibe of a drive down the open road, with his instrumental talents put to good use on one of his heavier recent originals, but I'd have liked to have seen more melodic singing and more of a guitar solo. For coming together by accident, it turned out nicely and is a fun and heavy way to kick off the album! Track 2 is "Pages the Break of Dawn", featuring former local hard rock drummer Paul Burns on vocals, who wrote the lyrics based around past experiences of his in jail. Featuring a unique element of the lyrics being a phone call, the song has a Sykotyk Rampage essence with it's trance-sounding instrumentation, though if you're expecting something heavy, only the lyrical impact would fit. Paul's singing isn't the most refined or rangy that I've heard, but it fits the mood and message, and knowing the song's based on real events, everything works for what it is (and best of luck in Wisconsin!)

Next on the CD is "Burn Notice" (named after the TV series), an instrumental hard rock number that has a solid groove that, while never getting too fast and intense, keeps steady with solid hard rock riffing and drumming! Nice bass too, even having something of a surf quality on some of the guitar work, though some of the instrumentation sounds a bit staticy. I would be curious to hear lyrics based on the "Burn Notice" show here, but it's an effective instrumental that delivers the rock goods and never bores in the process! Fourth is "All Lost, No More", a song about Jesus Christ and his acts of healing from a few Bible passages. Having a slow rock vibe, Ken employs his Elvis Presley-esque vocals here in a very deliberate and clear manner, which I imagine was deliberate to get the song's spiritual messages across. Nice vocal control and bass on this track especially, and while it's well played and has good emotion, the structure and pacing offers few surprises, and you may not appreciate the lyrical content unless you have good knowledge of the Bible.

After that, we have "Groovin' Zombie", another instrumental (aside from a brief Elvis callback) that, while not sharing much in common with zombies, has a fun groove to it! Nice and melodic with solid guitar work as expected, it's one of the longer songs on "Perception", but it never gets bogged down with repetition or drawn out stretches. Everything comes together well for a lighter rocking sound, with the guitar riffing and lines giving most of the song's bright moments! I think I prefer "Burn Notice" in terms of enjoyment, but "Groovin' Zombie" is no slouch either! That's followed by "Magic Girl", which is based on Ken's memoriues back in Detroit-area bands of some of the "freakier" girls back then. Almost bluesy in tone, this song features spoken word verses and sung choruses, which work well to tell the story, but if you don't listen and get into the story, you might find this to be repetitive after a while. I enjoyed that angle, and I liked the more extensive guitar solo, so while there are more technical songs on "Perception", "Magic Girl" has it's own unique flavour!

Seventh on the album is "Oungago Mustard" (named after two words from a CAPTCHA identity test), which, at 5:46 long, is the longest song and third instrumental on this album. It has a jam/classic rock feel that is entertaining throughout, with solid and varied guitar riffs, a constant energy, and nice backing drumming! It doesn't feel like a 5 minute+ track, which is a good sign, but I'd have liked to have seen a guitar solo and maybe a faster stretch to shake things up a bit. Still, "Oungago Mustard" keeps the good feelings going! Then, we have "Bad Take", the album's shortest track (despite being 3:41), which tells of Ken's feelings about what was real in life, and the Lord's message to him. It reminds me of "All Lost, No More" in themes, vocal style, and pacing, albeit with more of a bluesy/jam feel to the instrumentation, so if you like that song, this one should be up your alley! I will say that the choruses here are a bit monotonous vocally, and the music itself isn't as lively as on previous tracks, but given the lyrical content, I wouldn't expect it to be.  Not my favourite song on "Perception", but it's very consistent!

Second-last is "Time For A Change", which leads off a quick drum intro into a slower rock instrumental (completing the 8 song alternating pattern of having/not having vocals.) This one has a bit of a darker essence while retaining Ken's classic hard rock vibe, though unlike some of the previous instrumentals, "Time For A Change" doesn't have the free-flowing energy or variance to keep it constantly interesting. Again, he handles the music nicely, with quality deliberate guitar work, but compared to the earlier instrumentals, it's not quite on the same level. "Perception" closes with another instrumental named "April That Girl of Mine", that improves on "Time For A Change" by having a more energetic driving sound led by some really good guitar work, but it sounds a bit fuzzy at times, and there isn't as clear of an overall structure as one some earlier songs. The bass is really good though, and Ken's solo instrumental talent is on display to end the album on a good note!

So what's my final verdict on SweetKenny's second 2013 album? I think it's a better release than "Doo Hickey" in terms of musical quality, but it's not perfect. The equal distribution of instrumentals and full songs with vocals is the biggest outward difference, but beneath that, the songs were longer, less repetitive, and didn't sound as rushed as they did when I first heard one of his albums. The songs were generally a bit heavier and more lively too, which I appreciated on tracks like "Daddy's Little Girl" and "Burn Notice", and Ken's time-tested skill and songwriting is there in the clear! That said, I found "Perception" to get a bit stagnant and slow in the latter half of the album, with Ken's vocals not as varied and rangy when we did get them, and a couple of the songs sounded a bit staticy & fuzzy when there was a lot of simultaneous instruments. I'm not sure how this stacks up in quality to it's upcoming all-instrumental successor "Cracks In The Wall" (which I haven't heard in-depth enough yet to comment), but "Perception" is so far SweetKenny's best 2013 effort, and I'm very curious to hear his next studio output!

I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! Next month, we're going to review an album featuring prolific local metal/hard rock artist Mike Haggith, but which one? With his soon-to-be-defunct grunge quartet Haggith teasing the release of it's sequel "Apocalypse II" next month at their upcoming farewell concert, I was planning to review it's 2012 predecessor "Apocalypse" to keep things in chronological order giving the conceptual nature of them, but that would be dependent on a paid release of the sequel next month, as the original is no longer "new". If it doesn't come out as planned, we will very likely review Mike's new band The Strange Coyotes' new self-titled album, which just saw a release earlier this week on BandCamp on a "pay what you want" sale model (a'la Insipid Brutality's posthumous demo.) Note that a review of Mike's newest unreviewed solo album "The Present Din" won't be next month, as it's too soon from our review of "Neighbourhood Watch II", so that's out until the spring at the earliest. Look out for my review of either a Haggith or Strange Coyotes album likely in early December, and stay tuned for more news at the SMS soon! Thanks everyone!

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