Darkside of the Hand EP
When confronted with something new, the human mind naturally seeks a frame of reference, a label or category — even if for nothing more than the purpose of cataloging. Where this record is concerned, the first place my mind went was Rage Against the Machine. But Darkside of the Hand wants me (and you) to get a Q-tip and remove the sticky wax of a presupposition. On the opening track, “Welcome to the Darkside,” the band asks, “Are you listening? Are your ear drums open for Christening?” It’s as though the comparison was expected. And why not? Effects-enhanced talking vocals, hard-rock/metal guitars, dominant bass lines and repetitive, non-resolving song structures are the hallmarks of Rage Against the Machine and other groups of the ’90s rap metal ilk as well as a new breed of artists that prefer the tag “hard-hop.” But all that said — screw labels. DOTH is a hard-working Ventura four-piece that has a lot to say. Even if its method of delivery isn’t entirely unique, it is effective. And while the world isn’t lacking for musical talent, it’s desperately in need of a soundtrack for change. DOTH’s songs may not be overtly political, but they are catalyzing and sincere. We’ve been waiting a long time — literally, years — for Darkside of the Hand to finish this, its debut record, and, save for its brevity, it doesn’t disappoint. — Michel Miller
Coming soon to local music retailers. Available through the band at www.facebook.com/darksideofthehand.
If Southern California actually experienced the wintertime blues, Massenger would be its cure. Ventura’s reluctantly cool kids have returned with another full-length barnacle-burner about love, freedom and conscious living; a protest album disguised as a backyard keg-party playlist. Consisting of 11 short and to the point songs, Peelin’ Out kicks off with “Tread Lightly,” a dead serious call-to-action anthem for environmental responsibility that’s impossible not to sing and dance to, and ends with a cryptological ode to the infamous 86 House in Ventura where shenanigans abound. In between, there are songs in Spanish (vocalist Sasha Green’s native tongue), songs about assholes, a song of true romance and the poignant “Mr.” that reveals the strength in Green’s vulnerability. While she’s been a captivating vocalist and performer since the band’s debut, on this record she is commanding. Combined with Bryan Russel’s rootsy Billy Zoom-style guitar work, Mike Gleeson’s in-the-pocket precision drumming and the lyrical chemistry that Green shares with bassist-boyfriend Seth Pettersen, Massenger is becoming increasingly on par with L.A. punk pioneer X — a compliment of the highest order. When a band can make you feel this good with songs about the abiding lameness of humankind, it’s tapping deep into its personal power. Massenger’s got the beat. — Michel Miller
Available at www.burgerrecords.org and at live performances.
If The Ashes is to be believed, contemporary rock never goes out of style. The blistering opener and EP highlight “I Won’t Let You Live” is a fast-moving train that quickly arrives at a big hooky chorus with distorted backing vocals. The lurking “Paralyzed” is a bit too professional. While it’s easy to imagine this one on the soundtrack of some CW show, it’s just that: background music. “Save Us From It All” and “Crave” also groove to a mid-tempo beat, albeit with more individuality. “Crave” is more soulful, a falsetto workout for vocalist Chris Denogean. “Save,” a breakup song with an underbelly of “broken souls” and “heavy hearts,” hints at darkness. With the album-closing “Take You,” the high energy returns, although not as boldly or daringly as the opener. The Ashes describes its new EP as bursting with “unapologetic rock anthems.” Indeed, not every band needs to be a game-changer;’80s- or ’90s-style conventional rock can be fun. At times, The Ashes is. This album proves that the band can write and perform in polished lockstep. Now all it needs is to inject more of the personal and personality into its music and lyrics. — Michael Aushenker
Available at www.wearetheashes.com