Step Echo “Songs for the Broken”

originally posted on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

 

In the year and a bit that I’ve been reviewing albums, I’ve got my hands on quite a few independent albums by bands from all over the world. Hell, since mid January, all but one album I’ve reviewed have been recorded by independent bands. It’s refreshing to have finally been given the follow up album to one of these bands for review. Last May I write about St. Catherine’s Step Echo and their album Jagged, an album that I was impressed with as well as a few other people that I’ve played the album for. Now I feel privileged that their independent record label Red Dragon Records felt comfortable sending me Songs for the Broken.

Immediately from the opening track, Too Much, it is obvious that Step Echo is turning over a new, heavier leaf. All three of the opening tracks; including Bring and the title track Song for the Broken all sound heavier and more serious than anything off of their Jagged album. Even vocalist Joel Degonia’s voice, which I had no complaints about regarding his performance on Jagged, is heavier and more serious, and dare I say improved. It’s almost as if he decided to change his vocal style altogether.

Just like Jagged, Step Echo weren’t afraid of including some slow songs on Songs for the Broken. Stay With Me is a dark ballad, very slow and full of heavy sound but it has pure emotion that only a slow song could pull off. Then there is the undeniable ballad off of the album, Stumblin. This song brings out the sweet sounds of acoustic guitars but keeps the sound of electric guitars to effectively add power and emotion to the song. Unlike Jagged, which had two (three depending on who you ask) ballads, Stumblin is the only ballad on this album, but Rape My Heart, heard later in the album, is another slow song; not quite a dark ballad like Stay With Me as the pace is slightly faster, but the song is just as effective.

My least favourite songs on the album come one after the other. Rock Your Body sounds like the band is trying too hard to have a radio hit and the result is something that could easily be a pop song if the guitars weren’t so distorted. Sexual Taboo is basically everything I didn’t care for on the entire Jagged album all put in to one song. On my Jagged review, I mentioned many times that the band had a sleazy sound on some songs, which at times bordered on cliché, but each of those songs still succeeded in impressing me. This time with Sexual Taboo, the only sleazy song on the album, Step Echo just sound uninspired and this time the music wasn’t quite good enough to mask the clichéd lyrics.

The rest of the album rocks as hard as the three opening tracks do. The most important improvement I think the band made with these songs is in the musical perspective, the band behind the singing is more noticeable. There was a song or two on Jagged, Crazy comes to mind, when the band playing behind Joel’s singing just plays power chords. That’s good to keep the sound sounding heavy, but you don’t really notice the band and Joel is pretty much left alone to entertain the listener (I would like to specify that not every song on Jagged was like this though, unlike some other bands I’ve reviewed). With the songs on Songs for the Broken, most importantly on the heavy songs, the band behind the singing is much more noticeable.

Ugly is a good ending to the album. It is a standout track on a really good album, but really every one of the albums heavy tracks, even the slightly slower Rape My Heart could have made for a good closing track on the album. Ugly does differentiate itself from most of the album, though, with a very noticeable guitar solo (something most of the rest of the album lacks) and the songs ability to go from a good low vocal and solemn guitar playing, then switch to a heavier sound for its chorus on a dime. The song is a little too power chord friendly though.

Step Echo takes a very noticeable turn in sound with Songs for the Broken. I can’t help but notice how much more the band sounds like an alternative rock band, compared to the straight forward hard rock of Jagged. While Jagged has an old fashioned hard rock sound with a modern edge, Songs for the Broken has a modern rock sound with an old fashioned edge. It’s not really an easy task to meet in the middle.

ALBUM HIGHLIGHT

Bring” –­ One flaw on the album is that it lacks a true standout track. While just about every one of the heavy songs on the album really is great, and they do sound different enough from each other, one doesn’t truly stand out, unlike the slower songs on the album. But I really don’t believe a slow song should be an albums highlight. Instead, I pick what I think is my favourite song from the album, Bring. Its vocal melody and the bands obvious comfort in playing with each other just makes for such a great sound. The band hasn’t released any of the songs from the album on to YouTube yet, so there is no sample of the song to provide.

 

FINAL RATING

8 (Out of 10)

 

Track List:

1 Too much
2 Bring
3 Song for the broken
4 Stay with me
5 Rock your body
6 Sexual taboo
7 Stumblin
8 Sanity
9 Fight the power
10 Not a world for the living
11 Twisted story
12 Rape my heart
13 Dark ride
14 Ugly
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