Direct Divide, Rawkzilla

“”I get an e-mail from the guy who e-mails me these sorts of things, and it’s information about this band, “Direct Divide”. I guess they wrote an 8-song album. An 8-song album? And they call themselves ‘Alternative’ and ‘Cinematic’ Rock? AND THEY’RE FROM L.A.? Then I see they have a female vocalist who also plays violin, and I’m about ready to fall asleep. Yes, my first impression was that some anonymous, vanilla, chick-singer-rock-and-roam (as in they get lost in their own image) band was to turn a cynic out of me and take the liberty of proving some stereotypes along the way. I thought one thing, and over the course of listening to the album that ‘thing’ I thought gradually, but at times abruptly, changed. Keep that in mind.

First things first, I do some research. Turns out last year (2013) they released a 3-song self-titled EP. It features two originals (which can both be found onBridges) and a cover of the classic Carol of Bells. It definitely sounds like a young band’s EP. Glimmers of hope, spotty production value, and a lack of any real ‘WOW’ factor are to be expected. They show some chops, but nothing to write home (or a review) about.

Enter Persephone, the opening track on both releases. Within the scope of the intro we hear a band that is stepping it up. A spacious but lackluster piano intro is replaced by a lilting, well-articulated synth keying of the same melody. Just in the way the syncopation swings, rather than stabs, you can see there has been an intense preparation by the band to try to reach the next level. Seriously, listen to both versions back-to-back. After a much more spirited (especially from the guitar) exposition, we hear a piece that is much more driven and confident than ever before.

A song that reminds me of both Rise Against and Dark MoorePersephone provides what seems to be a realistic overture of what to expect; cinematic soundscapes (a.k.a. An adventurous keyboard player) accompanied by power chords, rhythm section-style bass lines, and a punchy female vocalist with some skills on strings. (She plays this cool half-sized flying-vee violin/guitar thing and she is a redhead named Razz… in case you wanted to know…)

Despite the maturity I hear in the remaking of this song, I am still cynical.

Next up is Writing on the Wall. The acoustic guitar intro brings me back to 3 Doors Down, but next thing I know I’m listening to a ballad made of something a lot pop-ier. By the time the chorus rolls around I’m just confused. Is this a band that is blending styles like flavors in a marinade? Or are they just as lost as I am? When the song is over I’m not dissatisfied; there are some pretty tight hits and I’m a sucker for blended acoustic guitars, but the big picture is still pretty fuzzy.

Then Down, the third track, starts. Okay these guys are all over the place. Late 90s pop-punk? Still, I am not dissatisfied. Number four, Meteors, again shows maturity since their last release, and the last 1:30 of the song is a pretty convincing buildup. But still, I wonder: what are they getting at? What are they trying to do?

Liar plays and I have trouble paying too much attention to it. Not a fault of the song, but by the fifth track I’m over-thinking, over-analyzing, and probably over-criticizing. But is that my fault? Is it theirs? AAAAGGGGGGH!!!!

Running The name of the song is Running. The shortest song on the album, at a measly 2:50, THIS is what it’s all about. You get some ambient, followed by throttling buildup into screeching-then-pounding drums and guitar. This song is not incredibly unique, but hot damn the track is a little bit angry! Stream of consciousness replaces first and second persons as the narrative. Something in Razz’s voice, something newly emergent, finally breaks through. It’s not what (well, it is a little bit) or where she sings, it’s how. A small crackle or nervousness we’ve been waiting for. That liveliness is captivating. As if the instruments are taking a cue from the vocals, they begin to detune and degrade into something much more emotional… that primal angst we want to cling to sometimes.

Breaking The Cycle continues this evolution, boiling down into something akin to Breaking Benjamin‘s radio hits, and not wandering as much. The melodies are dissonant and brooding, as are the vocals. Crashing into a Vivaldi-flavored metal-punk breakdown, the song ends on a frantic reprisal of the chorus, giving way to an absurdly awesome bluegrass fiddle solo.

Instead of capitalizing on the climax of the previous two songs, the entire attitude of this release is displayed instead: Certainty. Won’t Be Alone is not an epic power ballad, or a crazy explosion of solos and breakdowns. It’s closer related to a modern country rock duet. The vocal play between male-female reminds me, surprisingly, of Lady Antebellum, a band that is light years away from the same universe. Finally it all makes sense. This is not a collection of songs for the sake of showing off. This is a collection of songs for the sake of honesty. This is a collection of songs that four musicians enjoy playing together. This is not a magnum opus; it’s a letter of intent. They are not afraid of the stereotypes and suspicion their context may rouse, nor the impatience to come along with it. This is the scope of music they wish to play, and they don’t care if it doesn’t make TRADITIONAL sense.

As the song closes out, and Persephone loops back around, I find it surprising. It seems to feel different than the first time around. By the time I reach the end of the second play the picture is clear; This album is a set list. Now I don’t know if this is the exact order of songs they perform, but I’d be willing to bet their live show is something eerily similar.

I find it unnecessary to comment very much about the production value and individual efforts of musicianship. Besides moments where I wish the sound could have been a little more raw and lifelike, and less clean and dry, the instrumentation is solid. It is not awe-inspiring, but it is tight and mostly flawless. They play with a fairly flexible band dynamic, yet they don’t waste any time on melodies or riffs which don’t serve any purpose. There are thousands of bands that are good, fewer are great. This band is good, but they have the potential tools of greatness.

Structurally and lyrically they show a wide range, but that can sometimes make believability a loftier goal. This does catch up with them on a few tracks, but overall it doesn’t really hold them back. They dispense of their ego’s quite well, and the frontwoman is given a chance to shine when appropriate. At the same time, when a song is in need of a convincing breakdown, they do a good job of showcasing their own talents.

This is an album that is put together with an intelligent intent, and a backbone of better than average songwriting. While they show a marked improvement over their initial release, and a certain eclectic bravery, they have a steep climb ahead to reach the next level. Whether that next level is a killer tour, a sophomore slam, or the depths of obscurity… only time will tell.“”

3.5/5 stars.

 

Direct Divide, Rawkzilla

 

Record Label: ?

Album Length: 8 tracks, 33 minutes 10 seconds

Release date: 4/1/14

 

Roster:

Razz – Vocals/Violin

Kevin Proctor – Guitar/Vocals

Valdemar Huguet – Drums

Gabe Soto – Bass

 

Artist Website –  www.directdivideband.com

Bandcamp –  http://directdivide.bandcamp.com
Facebook – Facebook.com/directdivide
YouTube –  www.youtube.com/directdivide
Soundcloud –  www.soundcloud.com/directdivide
Twitter –  https://twitter.com/directdivide

1. Persephone (4:34)
2. Writing on the Wall (4:03)
3. Down (3:26)
4. Meteors (4:08)
5. Liar (3:45)
6. Running (2:50)
7. Break the Cycle (5:12)
8. Wont Be Alone (5:08)

 

Written by: Bryan Peterson