Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Ontario’s Niagara region may be more known as a tourist attraction to most rather than a place to live. It best known for its Casino, haunted houses, Marine Land, wax museums and the gorgeous Niagara-On-The-Lake, among many many other things. It hasn’t, however, been known for its music scene. While it did in fact give birth to Canadian rock legends Honeymoon Suite, it still remains disregarded and highly underrated for the many local bands it has.
One example of these many bands is hard rock actStep Echo. Formed in 2010 in St. Catherines, the band has as of yet released one album, Jagged. The album is filled with a good old fashioned hard rock sound with some good classic rock riffs and Joel Degonia’s badass style of singing.
The album has a strong sense of sleaze to it. The first three tracks alone show this. Just As Messedstarts the album off with a mid-tempo beat, a classic rock guitar riff and Joel’s simple low toned singing style which he easily turns in to a nice loud wail that comes rather unexpectedly. The following tracks,Crazy and the slightly faster Champagne Cocaine both follow this sort of sleaze rock style. They each feature many addicting hooks and easy-to-sing-along-with melodies to keep the listener entertained and a live crowd chanting. This sleaze rock sound is revisited toward the end of the album on I Love It, which is the sleaziest of the songs, really following the sex, drugs and rock & roll nature of any good rock song.
The band does not shy away from their softer side by featuring three ballads/love songs to even out the mood of the album. Pieces of Me isn’t quite a ballad but a definite love song, or rather lost love song. It maintains a powerful feeling to it that a ballad could give a listener, something similar to the way Everlong by Foo Fighters touches their listeners. At points in the song when Joel uses his low voice, it doesn’t sound so comfortable, but he still uses it well to show the true feeling he puts behind his singing, and when he sings with his higher voice, he more that makes up for it. I’d Be For You is an acoustic/electric ballad. This time Joel smoothens up his low voice a bit more to sound much more comfortable and capable to singing a love song of this nature. The song shows strong classic power ballad influence. As well, it shows a great deal of musical intelligence with its mixture of acoustic guitar, with electric guitar swells and even a string section. Living Without Your Love falls somewhere in between Pieces of Me and I’d Be For You. It has a very slow pace, but is a tad more aggressive.
The title track to Jagged is the hardest hitting song on the album. It maintains the sleazy sound from earlier on the album, mostly thanks to the change of singing style used in this song. The singing changes from aggressive and angry to free formed and dirty, back to aggressive. It keeps the listener on the edge of their seat for sure.
The most interesting moment of the album is by far the cover of the Payolas classic Eyes of a Stranger. Step Echo does a fantastic job at making this pop song in to a hard rock song, but keeping the 80’s sound and charisma of the original. If you were to listen to the original version of the song, you’d notice many 80’s music clichés heard in the song, such as heavy synthesizer/keyboard usage, a very dark sounding background with a not so talented Peter Gabriel-esque vocal performance by Paul Hyde (I myself thought for the longest time that is was in fact a Peter Gabriel song until a few years ago). Step Echo kept the dark background, added some keyboards but didn’t over throw them in to the song and heavily improved the singing. By this point in the album the listener would be used to the singing style used throughout the album so they know what to expect.
The album ends with Maybe. This song is a comfortable change from the rest of the album. It maintains a rather happy sound. It’s accompanied by a lead guitar riff by Les Serran, but is mostly a singer’s song. Rather than continuously strumming the same chords over and over, the guitar playing is effectively simplified to simply hitting one chord and letting it sustain until the next chord is hit, helping the song with its less than aggressive and more classic rock feeling.
The album has that rare effective conclusion that leaves listeners with wanting to hear more. Rather than saving filler material or a song that they weren’t sure fans would enjoy for the end, they ended the album off with one of their best songs. That alone shows the large amount of thought that went in to not only making great songs, but making a great all together album. It only grows on your more the more you listen to it. The band is currently putting together another album while, as they say “refining their sound”. If that album is even merely a continuation of Jagged then it is sure to be great.
“Become You” – This is the song on the album which proves that the band is more than just another band trying to sound like they should be making music in the 80’s or so by embracing a more modern sound. While it doesn’t fit the sleaze rock sound heard mostly throughout the album, Become You shows intelligence to both the old and the new. It features a sound similar to that of current alternative rock groups with its “woah” chants and slower heavy pace. It even has some 90’s influence in terms of its guitar riff, but maintains the classic rock edge that the band has.
8 (Out of 10)
|“Just As Messed”||3:05|
|“Pieces of Me”||4:05|
|“I’d Be For You”||4:20|
|“Eyes of a Stranger”||4:24|
|“I Love It”||2:50|
|“Living Without Your Love”||3:52|