by: Kidman J. Williams
Like many music lovers looking for great new music I found myself scanning the social media platforms in search of the proverbial diamond amongst the vast sea of wannabe thug-a-licious bling; what I found was an elusive awakening in Spirit Machines’ mashup song (Kashmir/Sober), “Zober” (which Tool themselves saw the video and shared it on their platform) from their debut album Feel Again.
I’ll be honest, when I heard the opening Zeppelin riff, I got a little sick. I’ve never been that big of a fan of Led Zeppelin, though I do recognize what they meant to the industry. But if I must endure one more listen of “The Immigrant Song” on another classic rock station I might shoot a wild boar and leave the bloody head on the doorstep of the nearest Clear Channel station with a delightful note attached. You always leave a note, it is just respectful.
As soon as I heard Pepper Rose’s vocals begin, I felt the more menacing taste of the song. Rose brings a soulful softness to the song’s over bloated cool that you always here from Robert Plant. By the time the song gets to Tool’s “Sober” you are well invested in the sonic attack that Spirit Machine (Pepper Rose/vocals, Dave Crespo/guitar, Sergio Marticorena/bass, Mike Collins/drums) thrusts upon the listener. It almost makes you forget that you are even listening to a mashup.
The song did its job by making me yearn to hear more.
By the end of Rose’s vocal harmony with Crespo’s guitar at the end of the song I was already reaching out to this intriguing mix of artists. Mike Collins got in touch with me during an intense and ironically not so sober evening of poker that night.
One of the first things I learned about this band is that they are from a state of religious encumbering. They are right out of the heart of Utah. The only thing I can think of that had any relevance (Joseph Smith was a fraud and schemer) from Utah was James Merendino (SLC Punk and SLC Punk 2: Punk’s Dead) and the Jazz’s favorite son, Karl “Mailman” Malone, and of course Imagine Dragons. Yes, I purposefully left out The Used. I hardly count them as a band. They were more like a footnote in music.
Spirit Machines opens this album with “Watch it Burn.” The song begins with a gnarled guitar that Collins shoves in your face telling you that you are in for a real proclamation. It readies you for the bleak reality and hopeful future that Rose beautifully constructs through the lyrics.
The third song on this disc (probably my favorite) is “Portland.” Most of the songs on Feel Again kind of have the same tone. They are dark, they are filled with dark tones and have a sound reminiscent of the 90’s prog-metal scene.
“Portland” however… this song adds this forward moving reggae rhythm while infusing an enchanting tenebrosity. The song offers you something that a lot of music out there doesn’t do nowadays; it offers personality. The whole album is full of personality, but it really showcases in “Portland.”
“Portland” tells the story of a damaged woman looking to escape from what seems to be a self-imposed shackling in her relationship. Rose sings about the affair and shame of it. I could be wrong, but that is the beauty of the song. It leaves some room to interpretation.
The only critiques I have for Feel Again comes with the production values. The music itself could use a little bit more bottom end. At times it feels like the producer was afraid to add a little bass to give the music a little more punch at times.
Then there are the vocals of Rose. There is no doubt that she is a dynamic vocal monster, but there are times that the producer should have pushed her a little more. There are songs where you feel the music really rising to an orgasmic crest and then Rose comes in with a cop-out note. She lowballs the note leaving you wanting more.
You can’t fault the band for that, that falls on the shoulders of the producer. The album was mixed by Will Holland at Chillhouse Studios. A good producer would and should have heard those notes. Holland should have guided Rose to push her performance. Afterall, this is his product as well.
The body of work is exceptional. The album is beautifully written and shows a real creative spirit throughout the whole album. It shows that there are still musicians out there that are willing to stand out on an artistic limb and sneer at the scene that is saturated with generic music and image consultants.
From start to finish Feel Again delivers an honest voice. It is not the same old contrived sound. This band could easily give into the pressures to conform for a number one download and those songs are fine, but not when you are striving for greatness and Spirit Machines are well on their way.
- Watch it Burn
- Eye of the Storm
- Echoing Sound
- The Changeling
- The Beach
- Bad Connection
- Trigger Warning