Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Brain Into A Trance

Greetings and salutations.

This week’s mail response absolutely stunned me. So many people wrote in sharing a laugh or two over last week’s “response,” that it almost outweighed the usual notes of negativity. It frightens to me to think that there might be people in Roanoke who are starting to think that I am funny, or worse still, clever – such a notion is indicative of brain trauma and I suggest you get yourself checked out immediately.

And that, dear friends, is a perfect setup for this week’s review of Signal 7. Thanks largely in part to the stream-of-consciousness frustration in their lyrics and erratic vocal performance, the only fitting description I’ve been able to come up with in the days since is “musical brain damage.” No, I have no idea what it means either. The sound is certainly rock, if only because no other genre may have them. Their attitude and delivery are punk at it’s Rottenest. I don’t know that they worship the devil outright, but they probably like him enough to invite him over for a cookout, so we’ll give them some metal cred. And while I don’t want to discount the talents of the guys playing the instruments, the singer is a pretty unique site to behold...

First, a quick lesson (for those of you without kids): The element of emotional turmoil in hardcore punk is widely classified today as simply “emo,” and it is characterized by songs that, for lack of better term, tend to sound like fights. The moods swings back and forth, often with rage followed by sorrow, then back to rage, and so on. In just about every case I’ve seen, the arguments are directed at some external tormentor with the singer/band usually lamenting themselves as a victim or venting randomly to the world (hence the frequent criticism of acts in the genre that can come off self-pitying or arrogant).

Whatever you call it, those in the business see it as another market to shop for the attention of angry teenagers, which of course means it’s already been reduced to a formula. This is where Signal 7 have an edge. For their singer, it’s a whole other battle – against himself. At any given time during their show, it would seem that there are 3 or 4 voices in his head vying for control of him, and subsequently of the microphone. They twist, laugh, snarl, and explode in every song as he lyrically explores the most basic elements of frustration in the everyman’s life.

Evoking thoughts of System of a Down if you substituted Armenia for Alabama, the major theme here is a musical agreement that life, in general, is a major pain in the ass. With a little less sorrow and lot more venom than their peers, it’s a no-frills recipe for being fed up that is bound to earn them a following. Behind the singer’s madness is a pretty tight musical ensemble – something else you don’t always find in their genre. While it can feel repetitious in parts, the melodies are quirky little lines that remind me of the mellower parts of Korn songs (you know, the creepy nursery rhyme approach) mixed with the sudden slamming of Fugazi, the overdrive of a mosh pit, and a few tricks so the guitarist feels assured that people don’t think he sucks.

Not nearly as dense in their instrumentation as some, the bassist is given more room to groove along with the songs, happily proving that he’s able to do more than just copy the root notes of the guitarist. Instead, they play off one another, usually going in opposite melodic directions to create the same kind of conflict musically that the singer creates vocally. The band’s drummer employs a fairly diverse range of beats, and is apparently important enough for the rest of the group to put the project on hold for several months while he served his country.

If you’re inclined to listen close enough, you’ll no doubt identify with the rants about life spent working for the man and dealing with other people’s sh*t. The music itself is fairly digestible even in the heaviest places, and you can always just watch and be entertained, wondering who’ll win the battle that is going on inside the singer’s head. Maybe he’ll lighten up and relax. Maybe he’ll get tired of performing and just leave. Or maybe he’ll strangle himself with the microphone cable. All seem extremely likely. For what it’s worth, his dementia is unlike any I’ve seen in town…for the better or worse is a decision I leave up to you.

Also, because I’ve been promising it for a while – the first two fights in this week’s Band Battle (a title I reserve the right to change as I see fit, at least until I come up with something I like better). Write in and vote for who you think should win (or lose…) in a fight between:

Fire At Will vs. Savior Bullets
The Worx vs. The Discordian Society

And speaking of the Worx, I recommend a read of the famous Band B*tch’s column this week, where she has a shockingly relevant piece about recent ABC actions and allegations. I’ve gotten a bit of mail on this particular topic myself, and may yet comment, but for now I encourage you to check out her well-written rant in lieu of one of my own. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom