I appreciate experimental rock as much as the next connoisseur of rock music. I also definitely think the true art and of song writing is something that is lost on a lot of musicians. I mean even some of the most popular classic rock artists kind of got by with okay song writing that wasn’t anything more than a good hook in a chorus. AC/DC comes to mind there. When it comes to experimental musicians like Vali Ohm, it takes very smart song writing skill to get listeners attention, mainly because to the average music listener, it’s the hook that keeps their attention.
On his new album Fragile Earth, the experimentation of Vali Ohm (real name Danny Jackson) lies in how different each song sounds. There are only eight songs on the album, and other than the fact that each song deals with saving and conserving the earth, each song has something unique about them musically that stands out above others.
Opening track Sea Shepherd has a dark back tone while going back and forth between heavy tornados of rhythm guitars to soft operatic verses. This is exactly the experimentation I’ve been talking about, all present right away in the first track for all to hear. The song at its hardest is the heaviest song on the album, which immediately makes it stand out above the rest of Fragile Earth. I think this song has the most experimentation to it, in the way it goes back and forth between soft and heavy, but almost comparable is the track On The Run; a progressive tune disguised as a piano ballad. This song doesn’t get heavy at any moment, but it goes from slow and softly played piano chords to a fast apocalyptically guitar/keyboard driven soundtrack all n the course of four and a half minutes.
Honey Bee is the first soft song on Fragile Earth, and only the second track. Vali Ohm really wasn’t afraid of raising eyebrows going from a predominantly heavy rocker like Sea Shepherd to an acoustic/synthesizer driven pop song like Honey Bee. This is one moment of the album where lyrically the song lacks punch and rather tries to make a point rather than make poetry. Beautiful Day could be similarly described. The song sounds different from Honey Bee, frankly it is the better of the two songs, but it is a soft acoustic pop song just as Honey Bee is. The message in Beautiful Day’s lyrics is a little more subtle and more poetic, which helps me like the song better.
The experimenting continues with Break The Chains‘ intro. There is a minute worth of slow rhythmic guitars and keyboards and vocals that sound nothing like the rest of the glam rock-esque song that Break The Chains actually is. All The Nations is a similarly written song in the sense that its hook is the main point of interest to the song, just like your standard pop rock song with a chorus meant to have an entire live crowd of people singing along to by the time it comes to the second chorus. But just like any pop song, the lyrics aren’t really poetic but rather, in this case, a little too to the point. With the exception of its chorus, the same could be said about Give It Some Attention; another catchy pop rock tune that has progressive elements hidden to the untrained ear.
Fragile Earth ends with a short track, simply titled Dead. Played in the form of an old blues track, with a simple percussion beat behind some bluesy guitar playing and a rough vocal performance by Danny Jackson. I like the song as a conclusion to the album in that it keeps the experimentation and spontaneity of the album while being short and to the point.
Vali Ohm seems to be fixated on saving the world through music. The first couple of listens to the album I didn’t seem to mind, probably because I was concentrating a little too hard on the great instrumentation of the songs, but eventually the lyrical theme got a little old to me. Some songs I found the lyrics to be a good fit, while others, and I mentioned certain specifics by name, try too hard and don’t quite cut it lyrically, despite being just great musically. I would have to say there is some pretty good talent behind Vali Ohm. The experimentation that I mention throughout the review is ever present and impossible to not appreciate.
“Sea Shepherd” – There’s no two ways about it, this is the song that impresses me the most. I kind of want the highlight of the album highlight to be one of the songs with a more catchy chorus like All The Nations, but the song writing behind Sea Shepherd is just too good. All while maintaining its own catchy moments that I’m sure most people would love.
7 (Out of 10)
1 Sea Shepherd
2 Honey Bee
3 Break The Chains
4 Beautiful Day
5 On The Run
6 All The Nations
7 Give It Some Attention