Thursday, November 9, 2017

Black Note Graffiti - Volume 2: Without Nothing I'm You (2017)

Written by Mike Yoder, posted by blog admin

Black Note Graffiti, hailing from the University of Michigan’s home in Ann Arbor, are from some sort of academic exercise. The four piece featured on the band’s second full length Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You plays in a convincing guitar heavy and aggressive rock and metal style without ever succumbing to the host of tropes and clich├ęs that typically stamp the experience of hearing new bands of this ilk today. The band’s material is fraught with hard times and personal conflict, but the inherent musicality in everything they do, even at their most rugged, keeps hearing them from ever being a chore. The eleven songs on Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You take things a step further than those we heard on the band’s first album and it simply reminds us that bands often refine their approach on sophomore releases – the songwriting brain trust behind this band has experienced success with other projects, so establishing chemistry is a process. This collection provides a bevy of evidence that process is well underway.

“No Love Lost” serves notice that this second album demands to be taken seriously. This is a band, as the song amply proves, capable of bringing hard-nosed aggression together with a fair amount of vocal finesse and compositional complexity. The complexity is reflected in their mastery of dynamics – Black Note Graffiti understand how and when to change things up for dramatic effect and varying the color in their performances makes for a more attractive presentation. “Such Is Art” forsakes the hard rock/metal posturing heard in the opener in favor of a more alternative rock approach and the rhythm section of Kurt Keller’s drums and Adam Nine’s bass playing. It’s one of the more intelligent, yet fiery, numbers on Volume 2. Kris Keller and Ricardo Ortiz make a formidable two guitar attack, but Keller takes a natural lead and unleashes lead work that engages listeners physically and hangs together coherently. “Castles” features one of the album’s better lyrics, but remains a bit unsatisfying musically. Much of the song seems to exist in a perpetual state of “winding up”. There’s a sense that the song is due to uncoil for listeners in a spectacular way, but the payoff never quite comes. It isn’t for a lack of trying however but, rather, because the payoff doesn’t match the promise shown. It’s a noble and rare misstep.

Black Note Graffiti step away, some, from their reliance on compelling riffs for the song “Bars from the Cages. Jagged, melodic guitar work creates a faintly foreboding mood to work as counterpoint to the band’s grinding rhythms and it adds a flourish to this performance missing from the rockier efforts. “Why We Trust” is another of the album’s outright gems thanks to the band’s willingness to tackle weighty themes with a dramatic musical arrangement and their forceful playing alternates between a softer touch and muscular guitar passages. The streak continues with the memorable “Relapse” and it’s a near perfect illustration of how the band’s songwriting brings personal qualities to bear in their work while never allowing it to become unduly obscure. The cacophonous finale “Send Off” sends Volume 2 off in a blast of guitar-driven fury and the dissonant surfaces are introduced by a brief, melodic interlude. It’s also one of the most impassioned numbers on Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You and, in one fell swoop, shows how far the band has come since their 2013 debut. Black Note Graffiti, with the recent addition of second vocalist Gabrielle Bryant, is poised to take things to another level entirely.  

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