Rock

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New Diaries live at Chipper's in Austintow, Ohio. Left to right: Jeremy Babel, Aedan Martinez, Eric Pigg and Joh Piscitelli Jr. Phot courtesy of Firestorm Images.

New Diaries live at Chipper’s in Austintow, Ohio. Left to right: Jeremy Bable, Aedan Martinez, John Piscitelli Jr. and Eric Pigg. Photo courtesy of Firestorm Images.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

For many, Youngstown is well-known for hosting a number of small sub-scenes within it’s vast music scene. From it’s early punk and post-punk to its long-standing metal and stoner rock scenes, the city reaches across the entire spectrum of rock and roll. And modern rock is certainly no stranger to the scene; from the soaring, sing-along anthems of early 00’s act Alias-X right up to modern groups like Amnesty for Astronauts and Phoenix Rising, and now to emerging act, New Diaries.

Of all the city’s crowd-pumping modern rock acts, New Diaries certainly has the heaviest edge. An undeniable Pantera-meets-Disturbed metal influence is prominent throughout the band’s riff-heavy rockers. With the twin guitar attack of Jeremy Bable and  John Piscitelli Jr., the driving low end of bassist Eric Pigg and the widely-ranged, sing-to-scream powerhouse vocals of Aedan Martinez, New Diaries are a force to be reckoned with.

Despite their raw and aggressive sonic assault, Martinez said they are looking to reach as wide of an audience as possible with New Diaries.

“What I try to do with my music is to aim for a larger audience. Not just the young generation but older generations as well. With that said, I try to put a lot of influences to show musicality rather than sound just one way,” said Martinez.

Guitarist Piscitelli added that the band is still growing as musicians and still learning from one another as they continue to move forward with their song-writing.

“I know there’s parts of me that I feel the rest of us are still absorbing. I think we still haven’t even found what our sound is. We’ve been writing more music together, seeing how it blends, and we’ve come up with some interesting stuff,” expalined Piscitelli.

Currently, New Diaries’ live set is an arena-sized face-melting explosion of heavy rock scaled down to a club setting. The band takes no prisoners slamming through hard-hitters like “Dear Jane” and “Leeches and Spiders” while coming up for air with their seminal power ballad, “For You.”

The band does not take their music lightly, especially when it comes to conveying the meanings behind the songs and their lyrics. Martinez explained that music is a gift to the individual, and the one true source of expression.

“Music is an expression of one’s soul. It’s the one thing that binds us together. It doesn’t matter what type you are playing or how you are playing it, it’s an expression of who you are and what you’ve been through as a person,” said Martinez.

As most of the area’s modern rock bands, New Diaries have a sound fit for the mainstream, but still raw, powerful and beautiful; still real. They have an undeniable passion backed by a driving heavy rock sound that has the potential for wide, crossover appeal.

New Diaries are currently working with new drummer Daniel Pearl and plan to continue their rise throughout the scene. Be sure to check back here for updates and visit their Facebook page for updated events and live performances.

Jefferson Airplane circa 1967. Photo courtesy of www.jeffersonairplane.com.

Jefferson Airplane circa 1967. Photo courtesy of www.jeffersonairplane.com.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

From the trailblazers of experimentation arose a movement inspired by those sonic strides as well as art, fashion and mind-expansion known as Psychedelic. The sound was comprised of music (most often rock) which imbued the aforementioned with new found recording technology, effects pedals for the predominant instruments, guitar and bass with Eastern scale structures, was first noticed by most of the Western world in the mid 60’s through the Beatles in England and in the Byrds in the U.S.

From there, pop, folk and the blues, which were then primarily simple melodic tunes, became more experimental. Whole new projects/bands devoted to this sort of direction arose, especially in California. Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and led by the infamous Jim Morrison, the Doors.

Jorma Kaukonen, guitarist of Jefferson Airplane and Ray Manzerek, keyboardist of the Doors were true masters of their instruments and led their respective bands to play and sing against some scale and chord structures that most pop fans have never heard; and it worked. The music was intriguing but still catchy. Again, as any movement seems to rely on, Jazz was employed and drawn from as was blues for the simple yet gritty melodies many of the frontmen came up with. It is not to say, that vocalists, such as Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane did not have their head wrapped around what was going on instrumentally. In fact, Slick was one of the first songwriters to grab everyone’s attention with her famous unlipsyched performance of “White Rabbit” on The Smothers Brothers show in ’67 and a host of catchy yet thought provoking songs on their most famous record, Surrealistic Pillow.

While anything by Airplane, the Grateful Dead or the Doors from the 60’s would be a great example of some of the best/best known in this sub-genre, it is important to acknowledge just how DEEP it got by the 1970’s. Instrumentally, tonally, lyrically and melodically. Things on the whole were getting heavy. More to the point, Psychedelic music (especially blues based) has had the most effect on what became Heavy Metal.

Many know the legend of Hendrix’s playing being described as, “Heavy metal falling from the sky…” and his death in the 70’s may have caused some artists/bands inspired by him to quit or follow down the same path as him. But in the 70’s, even though America had hits such as “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida,” England was booming with the heavy side of Psychedelic with Cream and the hard hitting, Blues-rooted Led Zeppelin and eventually Black Sabbath, who was known first as a Psych-Blues band called Earth.

American Psych Rock (for the most) part maintained their takes on the movement and led more than ever into Space Rock (perhaps due to propaganda of the times) as the Jefferson Airplane-turned-to-Jefferson Starship teased. However, little known bands that were following suit in other countries made enormous strides of their own and led to the Progressive Rock that would become famous as a huge European movement.

Did Psych Rock crash like a Led Zeppelin? It is through Pysch Rock and the ever revolving door of Brit Pop Revivals that led to the Madchester movement in the North of England in the 80’s and 90’s. Even more hair splitting took place with sub-genres which resulted from the poppy melodic dance elements New Order and the Happy Mondays employed (Beatles, Byrds) to the Psych inspired guitars of the Stone Roses, and the Smiths’ Johnny Marr’s playing coupled with the group’s intelligent and outspoken front man, Morrissey (Airplane, Doors) and ultimately back to the heavy darkness of Joy Division (Sabbath).

Those elements’ thought provoking depths inspired Punk and Glam in the 70’s such as Loud Reed’s solo career and part of the New York Dolls’ early sound. Goth and Sludge acts in the 80’s and 90’s felt the influence too, most notably withe acts like Sleep, Kyuss and Tool. Kyuss’ psychedelic riffs on Blues for the Red Sun in 1992 and Tool’s psychedelic-prog masterpiece, Aenima in 1997. Shoegaze acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Brit Rock groups Oasis and Blur also hinted at the influence of 60’s Psychedelic rock. Finally, by the 00’s, sludge acts like Melvins and Isis, along with the rise of EDM and the rave scene, all flash a heavy influence of Psychedelic music with spacey reverb and hypnotic sounds.

And this shouldn’t have as much to do with it as all that but people in every decade since have taken drugs.

The Doors, live extended version of “Light my Fire” in ’68

Cream, live and very heavy in ’68

Little known early heavy 70’s psych trio, The Flow

New Order, very out there deep cut from 1983’s “Power, Corruption and Lies”

The Stone Roses, their far out Madchester single, 89’s ‘I Wanna be Adored”

Lastly, I leave you with a dramatization of making of Joy Divisions’ “She’s Lost Control,” as depicted in the film 24 Hour Party People, which spans the history of the Madchester movement.

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The Replacements performing at Riot Fest 2013.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As another year comes to pass, we again reflect on all that was in music. 2013 was a year that saw many music legends return and sadly, a few of them check out. Heavy hitters like Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age dropped exceptional high-energy rockers, while relative new-comers Deafheaven, Savages and Disclosure continued to push the limits of artistic integrity. And not to mention there was a slew of colossal comebacks from some of the biggest and most influential forces in music.

Early in 2013, the iconic David Bowie announced a new album, his first of new original material in over a decade. The result was The Next Day. Released in March, The Next Day is a quiet yet moving record that perfectly showcases how gracefully Bowie has aged and how sharp his musical wit still remains.

February saw the release of the highly anticipated third album from Shoegaze/Dream-Pop pioneers My Bloody Valentine. In late 2012, guitarist and mastermind Kevin Shields teased fans saying that an album was being mixed and will be released timely. This was a huge deal for fans, considering that it hade been 22 years since the release of their seminal classic, Loveless. The band followed through, and m b v was released just a little over a month into the year. Not only was it worth the wait, but it proved My Bloody Valentine was still capable of creating really good music as it held up perfectly next to Loveless, and proved itself to be one of the best records of the year.

One of the biggest comebacks of 2013 was certainly the return of Black Sabbath, and for many reasons. It was to be the first new record with original singer Ozzy Osbourne in 35 years. Shortly after the band officially announced their reunion plans in late 2011, guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with cancer. After a year of undergoing treatments, and surviving the unfortunate resignation of original drummer Bill Ward, Black Sabbath released 13 this summer and made the entire spectrum of Heavy Metal drop to its knees. 13 was a crushing, bluesy, heavy-riffing affair that reminded everyone again just why this band was so important to not only Heavy Metal, but Rock and Roll as a whole.

Alternative Rock saw the return of two of its most influential and important figures: Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails. QOTSA’s …Like Clockwork, their first record in six years, was a swinging, groove-heavy Rock and Roll party with an all-star cast of guest musicians (Dave Grohl, Julian Casablancas, Trent Reznor, Elton John). Cuts like “My God is the Sun” and “I Appear Missing” hadn’t hit as hard since 2002’s Songs For the Deaf. NIN’s electro-funky Hesitation Marks harked back to 1994’s The Downward Spiral, with an older and more bitter Reznor at the helm. Although not quite as abrasive as their earlier records, new cuts like “Copy of A,” “Came Back Haunted” and “In Two,” as well as the highly visual and conceptual Tension 2013 North American Tour, still hold Nine Inch Nails to their standard of crushing electronic heaviness and dark prowess.

Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years… Industrial-tinged Alt-Metalers Filter delivered The Sun Comes Out Tonight, their most concise and impactful record since their 1999 hit, Title of Record. Led by the singles “What Do You Say” and “Surprise,” the band are seeing a career renaissance, as fans continue to discover and rediscover their severely underrated and under-the-radar releases, 2008’s Anthems For the Damned and 2011’s The Trouble with Angels.

Indie Rock pioneers Neutral Milk Hotel and The Replacements also had quite the eventful summer in 2013, both returning from decade-long hiatuses. Neutral Milk Hotel returned for a handful of festival dates and small venue affairs, hinting at the possibility of new material in 2014. Elliott Smith resurrected the legendary Replacements for a handful of performances as well as a covers EP. New material hasn’t been confirmed, but fans remain hopeful entering the new year that The Replacements haven’t quite said everything that they need to just yet.

Finally, with 2014 looming, Art-Rockers Failure and Hip-Hop titans Outkast have announced reunion performances throughout 2014, leaving fans ecstatic for the possibility of extensive tours and new material.

Unfortunately, 2013 had it’s share of major losses in the world of music. Country music legends George Jones and Ray Price bid farewell, passing away of natural causes after leading long and wonderful careers. Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who was placed in a semi-conscious coma following a motorcycle crash in 2008, passed away on April 13. Thrash Metal experienced a major loss when one of its key players, Slayer guitarist Jeff Henneman, passed away on May 2 due to complications following a spider bite. The Doors’ iconic composer and keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, succumbed to cancer at age 71 on May 20. In many ways, Manzarek remains the father Psychedelic music, as his signature atmospheric organ tones provided the perfect backdrop to Jim Morrison’s gothic poetry and soulful swagger. And last but certainly not least, Oct. 27 saw the passing of the legendary Lou Reed. Reed was the founder of 60’s Art-Rock trailblazers The Velvet Underground and enjoyed an extremely successful and influential solo career that continued right up until his death.

Although 2013 saw the loss of a major chunk of diverse and influential musicians, there is no doubt their work will love on in the years and generations to come!

No AlternativeBy Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

During the early 90’s, many music fans in both England and America felt at a for loss words for identifying what was coming out of their post-punk and/or underground rock music scenes. That music eventually became known as the Alternative genre. College Rock Radio seemed to gather the remnants of music that American kids liked, but it was not very cohesive scene-wise/sound-wise.

Inevitably, a movement was bound to take place. In England, the Northern movement, “Madchester,” developed due to the Joy Division-influenced aftermath with journalist Tony Wilson at the helm.

Similar mass communication mediums such as radio, TV and magazines started to again coin genre names in America shortly thereafter. What was going to be the new “thing?” During the very fevered formation of this new genre, the compilation album, No Alternative, was released in 1993 with a whole host of acts that before didn’t seem related, yet conceptually, they came together on this album and it made sense. Alternative, in the broadest sense, was born out of various sounds of rock and folk (song-writer) genres and on the whole seemed to encompass more thought-provoking lyrics than what was on the radio at the time; similar to their post-punk and folk-punk predecessors.

The most popular offshoot of the genre became Grunge (especially in Seattle), but Art Rock artists from other parts of the country were at first often overlooked in this more broad Alternative genre due to media and playlist regularity. Artists such as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement were on the peripheries in the early 90’s, probably due to their more obvious Classic Rock influences, but eventually they enjoyed a steady fan base growth which was more correlated to the aforementioned Northern English music movements such as the “Madchester” movement and of course the ever repeating Brit Rock revivals.

English music show host, Jools Holland, became more influential in a way of picking up where Tony Wilson left off and connected the dots between the American and English scenes throughout the 90’s and the 00’s, reminding us of what and how the term Alternative really came about. An alternative type of music to what was typically played on top 40 rock radio. This is how and when the term became full circle. And now fans expect such artists to almost transcend the induced sub-genres and be beyond a genre, to be something different yet each having THEIR OWN cohesive sounds. Ironically it is NOT about a scene.

Observe.

As well as the aforementioned artists and Picks of the Week leading to this article I know present some wonderful examples that have been often overlooked after the initial Alternative heyday was over. These artists have also really have gone beyond genre and in a way back to what “Alternative” meant, what rock and roll means and what songwriting is. And many of these are from their founding scene giants were from. (Northern England, Seattle.) Just goes to show.

England:

Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught the Train

The Unbelievable Truth – Solved

America:

Jets to Brazil – Chinatown

Pedro the Lion – Live on KEXP

Amnesty for Astronauts. Left to right, guitarist/vocalist Josh Green, vocalist Alyson Byerly, guitarist Chris Byerly, drummer Joe Carbon and bassist Sam Silsbe. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Amnesty for Astronauts. Left to right, guitarist/vocalist Josh Green, vocalist Alyson Byerly, guitarist Chris Byerly, drummer Joe Carbon and bassist Sam Silsbe. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

The northeast Ohio music scene is a bona fide breeding ground for innovative and unique local talent. Each year, another crop of new artists and projects emerges, continually turning the scene on its side. With a sound consisting of soaring melodic guitars, spacey atmospheric noise and a dual vocal attack, it’s no doubt that Youngstown, Ohio’s Amnesty for Astronauts is poised to be the next standout act of the area.

Like a handful of the area’s current acts, Amnesty for Astronauts consists of veteran musicians coming together from former big name acts. From the infectious grooves of drummer Joe Carbon (ex-Slander, Moral Dilemma) and bassist Sam Silsbe (ex-Erin’s Vineyard), to the gigantic riffs of guitarists Chris Byerly (ex-Relic, Moral Dilemma) and Josh Green, to the dual vocals of Green and Alyson Byerly, the band is solid through and through.

The band said that like most projects, it began naturally through friendships, mutual admiration and the love of music.

“It started out as a few friends getting together jamming in a basement. They called me up and asked, ‘Hey, you want to join the project?'” said Silsbe.

“Joe and I have played together for 18 years now. I was in his first band with Aly, so that’s where our roots are. Joe and I continued to jam ever since,” added Chris Byerly.

Formed over a year and a half ago, the band began to incessantly evolve. With the final addition of Alyson last summer, the sound had officially became solidified.

“With the addition of Aly a couple of months ago, we decided to bring in another singer and really turn it up a notch,” said Carbon.

With a wide pallet of influences, the band effectively blend their eclectic tastes into a unique and fresh sound that is unlike any on the area’s scene. Fusing the dynamic of The Pixies and early Radiohead with thumping grooves and a Hum-meets-Helmet slam of guitars, Amnesty for Astronauts successfully spans the broad spectrum of alternative rock. Evident on tracks such as the soaring “Miss Perfection” and the dream-like “Counting Sheep,” their sound provides no limitations.

“We get in arguments about what we sound like. We don’t really want to stick to a certain genre. And it’s helping us write songs. Every week we’re writing a song. It might sound something completely different than the last one we wrote, but it’s still something we like,” said Green.

“It makes you more versatile. The more you listen to, the more opportunities you have to be inspired,” added Alyson Byerly.

While consistently finding inspiration, the band have not only been pushing themselves forward artistically, but stressing the importance of building their name in unique and entertaining ways. For their first live performance, the band have been hitting the streets for promotion with a flyer resembling a moon-landing reported on the front page of The New York Times.

“You need to show your passion for what you’re doing to people. You can convince people to like what you’re doing if they see how much you like it. Facebook is very impersonal. I think getting out there and meeting the people, that’s what music is all about,” said Carbon.

Amnesty for Astronauts officially takes flight on Saturday, Nov. 23 with their first mission taking place at Chipper’s in Austintown, Ohio for a FREE show alongside Skull’Rz Bane and New Diaries. Exclusive live tracks can be streamed via their Reverb Nation page by clicking here.

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Visionary, trailblazer, cool, godfather, original, genius, brooding, artistic, inspirational. Those are just some of the terms that come to mind when referencing the godfather of art rock, Lou Reed.

Reed’s 46-year career spanned several eras, trends and movements. Somehow, the iconic rocker always managed to be cited as a leader or influence. And up until his passing last month, Reed was still going strong, still challenging his audience and still making an intellectual and trend-setting statement.

Reed’s career begin in the mid-60’s as frontman of The Velvet Underground. While most bands of the time were drenched in psychedelia and trying to play louder than their predecessors, Reed and his bandmates were taking an intellect in rock and roll to a whole new level, birthing the sub-genre of art rock.

The Velvet Underground were, at the time, rock’s best-kept secret. With themes of sex, drugs and violence, it certainly wasn’t very in step with much of the “hippie” movement. They were arguably the first cult band, with a devoted underground audience despite a serious lack of national radio play or television exposure. In a pre-Internet world, they were among the first acts to connect others like-minded, one a smaller yet wide-ranged scale, selling only 30,000 copies of their debut album. As Brian Eno was once famously said, “…everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Their association with Andy Warhol and their artsy approach gained the band even more popularity throughout three studio albums in the late 60’s and lasted long after the group disbanded in 1970.

Reed’s career was far from over after The Velvet Underground. He took the world by surprise in 1972, releasing two of rock’s greatest masterpieces, his self-titled solo debut and the David Bowie and Mick Ronson co-produced Transformer. Transformer was arguably the first glimpse of Gothic rock, featuring Reed on the cover donning black clothing and eyeliner. The album’s smash hit, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” was a dark and ironic tune, paying homage to all the misfits and freaks that surrounded The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol in the late 60’s.

The following year, Reed took steps into progressive rock, releasing the concept album, Berlin. Darker than Transformer, Berlin told the story of two junkies in love in the city of Berlin. Songs of severe drug addiction, prostitution and suicide further expanded Reed’s fascination with the darker side of the human experience.

By 1975, Reed released another critical work, Metal Music Machine. Although the album was considered a commercial failure and sold poorly compared to Transformer and Berlin, it’s influence spread wider than originally imaged. The album consisted heavily of electronic noise and feedback; a stark contrast to his well-produced earlier solo works. However, the album’s noisiness went on to heavily inspire early NYC punk/alternative acts like the Talking Heads, as well as entire sub-genres such as noise rock and proto-industrial.

Reed’s experimentation, both sonically and lyrically, continued over the next 30 years. With the occasional commercial successes and the equally occasional commercial flops, Reed always managed to remain relevant through out the ages. Punks admired his ambition and lack of interest to play nice with the music industry. Acts as diverse as Iggy Pop, The Flaming Lips, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and Jane’s Addiction all cite Reed, as well as The Velvet Underground, as critical influences on their music.

His final musical stand came as a very unlikely collaboration when he teamed up with metal icons Metallica in 2009. He first performed with them at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s 25th Anniversary Concert, and later announced he would be recording an entire album with them. The result was 2011’s Lulu. The album, based on a late-1800’s German play, went straight to number one on the Billboard charts. However, the album was quickly deemed a critical and commercial flop. Both parties stood behind the project, as Reed again managed to challenge his audience, whether they liked it or not.

Reed’s unrelenting search for thought-provoking and challenging artistic statements were ultimately the reason for his long-lasting relevance and his wide-spread influence. Reed never tamed himself and never necessarily gave his fans the music they were expecting to hear next. It’s because of his ambition and fearlessness that he remains a true icon, visionary, and the King of Cool. Even after his death, as long as rock and roll is still kicking, his life and influence will continue to be celebrated.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The early development of the Shoegaze genre lies somewhere in the post-punk haze of the 80’s. Gothic/Ethereal artists such as Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain began to fuse elements from uncategorized and/or “art” rock acts like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur, Jr. The name itself evolved because artists, namely guitarists, where using a lot of effects on their guitars through the use of various pedals and stomp boxes and they seemed to be “gazing at their shoes” during performances.

Though many of the genre’s predecessors often used a lot of layering or effects in their music via multi-tracking, in live situations they were more sparse. Live performances from Shoegaze artists differed in many instances because they rarely changed the arrangement or the effects, although the layering was done in a more ethereal or blurred out way to begin with on the records, it was a bit easier to cope with live. Moreover, live versions were even more exaggerated because of this. Shoegaze greats Ride and Catherine Wheel are prime examples of this practice.

By the 90’s, a sister sub-genre called Dreampop surfaced with artists such as Slowdive and Lush. Their music featured the noise of Shoegaze, however was a bit more poppy and melodic. Even Brit Rock/Pop bands like The Stone Roses also experimented with many of the budding trademark sounds with their single, “I Wanna Be Adored” in 1991.

However, 1991 was the year that the first significant stride was made in Shoegaze. One of the first acts to be described as both Dreampop and Shoegaze, the influential My Bloody Valentine, combined airy female vocals and guitarist Kevin Shields’ distinctive sonic wall of guitar noise. In fact, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless had a great impact on many guitarists in the 90’s, not just in Shoegaze, but Alternative in its broadest sense. Billy Corgan and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins are notable followers.

The torch was in a way, carried most authentically to British band, Catherine Wheel. Shoegaze became full circle and the trademark sound was “nailed” by them in 1993 with their second record, Chrome. This is arguably the cornerstone record in this genre with its dreamy and catchy melodies sung with Gilmour-esque soothing ethereal vocals and sonically lush (but often still aggressive) guitars and concepts which vary throughout. This record is also one of the most unsung and overlooked recordings of the 90’s in general due to the quick shift in focus to the rise (and fall) of Grunge.

However, not all was forgotten. Catherine Wheel went on throughout the 00’s, inspiring new fans of other genres to not only go back and listen to their old records, but discover My Bloody Valentine’s, Loveless too, and draw from a perhaps small collection of Shoegaze records. Even more so, the quality that spanned Smashing Pumpkins’ range of influences, as well as successful English Alternative/Rock acts such as Radiohead and Pulp, had therefore inspired yet another Brit Rock Revival.

In the Shoegaze lineage, little known but amazing American artists such as Starflyer 59 (often referred to as a Space Rock band) and Hum plugged away through the 90’s. In more recent years, the independent two-piece act, Have a Nice Life, emerged with one of the greatest Shoegaze mixtures ever, especially on their debut album, Deathconsciousness. The presence of Dreampop-y melodic hooks, spacey textures and even darker undertones, hark back to the beginning of this genre’s early Post-Punk/Goth influences. (Refer to some of the artists mentioned in last month’s Gothic Rock article).

In addition to the previous Picks of the Week, which I used introduce this origins of this genre I now include for your enjoyment:

Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic. From recommended album, Ferment. 1993

Starflyer 59 – Hazel Would. from recommended album, Silver. 1994

Hum – Stars. From recommended album, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. 1995

Have a Nice Life – Bloodhail. From recommended album, Deathconsciousness. 2008

Harnessing the Sun live. Left to right, bassist Tom Fratilla, drummer Loren Butz and singer/guitarist Douglas Roberts. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page

Harnessing the Sun live. Left to right, bassist Tom Fratilla, drummer Loren Butz and singer/guitarist Douglas Roberts. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Amidst the array of smoke-drenched biker bars and competing classic rock tribute acts that dominate most of the Western-Pennsylvania nightlife, a soulful and hard-rocking power trio has emerged to take the reigns and lead the pack.

Harnessing the Sun, a relatively new three-piece rock and roll unit from the Sharon, Pennsylvania area, burst onto the scene this year with their debut album, Sun Signs.

Consisting of the emotionally matured lyrics and driving riffs of singer and guitarist Doulas Roberts, and the groove-heavy rhythm section of bassist Tom Fratilla and drummer Loren Butz, Harnessing the Sun are a power trio unlike any other witnessed in rock music in nearly 25 years.

The band members have individually been hammering away in separate projects for years, paying their dues and crafting their art. But as of last year, the stars aligned when they joined forces to form Harnessing the Sun.

“We won’t name the establishment, but the three of us have all worked at the same place,” said Roberts. “Tom and Loren began jamming with a couple other guys, but once I stopped going to college, I kinda butted my way in I guess.

“He got roped into it,” joked Butz.

After more than a year’s worth of work perfecting their sound, the band was ready to unleash Sun Signs onto the world. The album kicks off with the upbeat rockers “That’s Right” and “Love You to Death,” before leading into the thought-provoking and inspiring track, “Drop Your Weapons.” From there, the old-fashioned amped-up blues ballad “Whiskey and Smoke” tells a tale almost everyone can relate to at one point or another; job loss and shady folks. The story is told with such soulful swagger and straight-up rocking riffs, the listener immediately takes notice to the range of passion Harnessing the Sun provides.

Another key track on Sun Signs is the bittersweet “Life is Good.” Not exactly a chipper tune, nor is it depressing, but simply real.

“There’s a slight bit of sarcasm in there, but a good dose of reality. We’re forced every day with advertising, it’s shoved down our throat from every angle, whether it’s political or standard advertising to increase commerce. The ramifications of religious advertising are overwhelming. It’s in our face everywhere we turn. You have to make a stand, find your own ground and realize life is good,” said Roberts.

From there, Sun Signs concludes with the up-tempo groovy rocker “Fools” and the energetic “Sea of Madness.”

All in all, Sun Signs is a very concise piece of music, with a wide assortment of emotions in a way similar of the Beatles with The White Album. The songs are all over the place in terms of themes and emotions, yet they’re all there at some point; anger, distress, joy, sorrow and sarcasm. Likewise is the experience of being alive. Life is random, consisting of all said emotions. And life is good.

Harnessing the Sun have also proven themselves a force to be reckoned with in terms of their live performance. The energy and passion of Sun Signs only amplifies when the band plays live. Their captivating live shows around the Youngstown area have began to build a strong buzz for the band, leaving fans wanting more.

“We love what we do and we try to kick ass doing it,” said Fratilla.

Harnessing the Sun will be performing in Youngstown on Nov. 1 at Papa’s Sports Grille alongside Idle Shades and Dakota Spells Disaster. Sun Signs is available on iTunes and can be purchased by clicking here.