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Album Reviews Reviews

Album review: Otherwise – Defy

Las Vegas’ Otherwise is the type of band that many would deny actually exists in the US – a group of young lads completely swimming against the tide, refusing to acknowledge that their art form is dead. They play pop music with actual rock instruments – guitars and drums and basses and all that. Even more bizarre, this band looks to support themselves in this archaic exercise.  No interest in the starving artistry of our not-ballyhooed-enough black, death, and stoner rock deities, they are the musical equivalent of those cream-coated arctic leopards with different colored eyes roaming mountain ranges and luminous cycloptic deep-sea fishes miles below the surface. Catching a glimpse of this exceedingly rare breed is simply fascinating.

Unfortunately, Otherwise’s rock tendencies are dialed back significantly this time: droidish autotune flutters all over the vocals. Riffs are an anodyne blend of synth/guitar frappe.  Programmed beats push the kit to the back of the mix or completely out of the picture. Adrian Patrick’s vocals are the only remnant of the band’s arena-shaking chutzpah left intact. It’s easy to detect the blanding – the move into mainstream on the first listen. Didn’t I give these guys a great review a couple of years ago?  The first couple of listens, so disappointing.  I was ready to seek out my 2017 self and kick my own ass.  Who did I think I was back then, anyway?  So cocky and self-assured, writing about this band and comparing them to classy AOR greats of yesteryear.  I needed to be knocked down a few pegs, and the one to do it is…well, me.  If I can figure out how to run up a huge bar tab and charge it back to myself or maybe go back in time and tell myself how all the episodes of Ozark end, thus ruining that little blissful binge.   Maybe I’ll create a bunch of nasty new aliases on WordPress and heckle my own reviews two years ago from when I was Mr. Know-it-all.

But just when I was about to open up a can of whoop-ass on myself, I spun the last roguishly loveable record the band released on Century Media, Sleeping Lions – and confirmed it was all there: oscillating piano lines, guitar hooks wigging out in all directions, vocal melodies trapped inside of other melodies, choruses ready for prime time whether it’s the next halftime Super Bowl commercial or CGI science-fiction blockbuster (that I will never see, but who cares?) Much more guitar-driven, layers of Ryan Patrick’s breezy picking and chug were all over the place. There were even a few whoa-ohs if I remember correctly. Tickets were stamped, stadiums at the ready.   Produced by Korn’s Jonathan Davis, it was an album capable of beating down Volbeat and knocking the fire out of Imagine Dragons, but I guess it wasn’t to be.

In the words of Fred Willard, “Wha happened?” Well, different label, different producer, changes in attitudes, nobody’s getting any younger. Suffice to say, I’d love to see this band bring back some of the earthier elements of their previous records with that rare sound like the mating call of the Bubal Hartebeest.

Editor Grade

D+

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