Black River Union's new record is here for our wondering ears! "Silver Off the Vine", Released October 2015, is a great new rock album with a familiar alternative sound. This mellow, yet passionate rock album is a welcome addition to our reviews and recommendations.
Black River Union reminds me of some of my favorite bands from the dawn of alt-rock, when competent, smart rock musicians re-discovered that they didn't have to conform to the standards set to relegating them to one demographic, and marketing to just a fraction of the listening population. Black River Union has taken this challenge by the reins, and in the memory of so many bands past and present, has combined alternative rock and pop sound with contemporary metal and hard rock, lightened with lilting piano lines and awesome vocal work. This Norfolk, CT based band has been seen live in the CT music scene lately, playing to cool rock venues. Recommended to me by an avid supporter of local scenes and good bands, he knew I'd appreciate the album as much as he did.
Matt Papanek plays piano and is our navigator of all things vocal. His keys are light and airy, and the result is a dreamy state, floating atop the music. Vocally, I find him to be unpretentious, yet totally skilled, belting out what he's got, in a smooth, at times almost conversational tone, and his precision and practice shines. You'll immediately recognize his specific musical influences when you hear him singing, but I won't divulge that here. Much of it brings to mind some favorite alt-rock bands, and one industrial metal singer in particular. The lyrics are metrical and poetic, they have meaning- just listen, you'll hear the story, the message in each song!
The guitar work on the album is surgeon-like precision work. Mike Short's playing ranges from an easy rock rhythm to almost psychedelic lead styles, and you'll hear metal, as well. His clean and clear tones never muddy the record, and the result is if a great player played jazz on a chainsaw, in a good way.
The bass and drums, played by Mike Stella and Tyler Young, respectively, are unobtrusive and tasteful. They hold the time and vibe, without being right up in your face. Characteristic of alternative rock, both players hold it down deftly. Tyler is a particularly excellent drummer, and my partner, Old Scratch, heartily compliments his playing on every track.
I have a lot of good things to say about the production of the record. It is captured and mixed extremely well, having been produced and engineered at Silver Bullet Studios. Greg Thomas, Chris Teti, Chris Yeterian and James Thomas all lend their hand to the production, and the result is a really notable mix. For me, the production can make or break a record (pun intended), and you'll find this to be a satisfying and dynamic mix.
"Silver Off the Vine" carries a solid vibe through its duration, and the songs all fit well with each other. Subject matter ranges from deep self-exploration and discovery, modern gratification, to forgiveness and empowerment. The lyrics are more powerful than most that I find in an album with an overall vibe this dark.
Any alternative rock fan will surely find a welcome home in this great new album, and we definitely recommend it! You can get your copy here: https://blackriverunion1.bandcamp.com/releases
On Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/1F7nbJsZduBsYwHyhqubRp