I think it’s getting old for me to say that this review was a long time coming (I say that way too often), but Western Mass.-based On the Shoulders of Giants released their debut album, Define, Hero? Way back on August 5th, and it has been on my mind since then.
The band started when lead singer/guitarist Izzy Alive met Joe King (vox/guitar) after transferring to a new high school. Over a shared love of the Dead Kennedys, the two set out to create a concept album based on the idea of the superhero. After writing a few songs, however, they brought in Chip Kirchner (bass/vox/keyboards) and Jerad Neville, who Izzy calls “one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever met,” and the foursome expanded upon the ideas of superheroes, villains, and threw in some more immediate, topical subjects to create a really incredible full-length album.
Izzy describes the band’s influences as everything from pop-punk and emo to hardcore and metal, with some jazz-influenced guitars thrown in. Vocally, it’s easy to pick up on the pop-punk influence, and the metal sound comes through in a lot of the melodies, but the album kicks off with a quiet, beautiful little piano intro. “Concrete” is by far my favorite song song of the album—I actually spent so much time listening to it that I had to force myself to move on to the rest of the album so I could write this review. It’s a spoken-word song with lyrics that really allow you to visualize this despairing scene. I usually gravitate towards “catchier” songs, but this is unique and so frigging cool.
“Destroyer of Worlds” is another great song with a killer chorus, which clearly links back to that original superhero concept. “Watch Out!” gets a bit jam-y in parts, but the stellar guitars, catchy chorus, and the shift from slow to fast rhythms is worth a listen. “Medication for the Kids” veers a bit off of the course, with a dance beat and schizophrenic vocals that fit the title of the song. You can detect a great ska beat on “Crashing”—this sounds like a radio hit. “Bam! Pow! Bang!” is buried at #11, but it has a ton of energy to wrap up the album. The final song, “B.O.M.B.S.,” takes Define, Hero? out on a high note, with a breathless, intense intro and highlights Chip on the keys.
The album is pretty meaty, with the average song at around 3:30. Some might be a bit longer than necessary, but all in all this is a really solid debut effort. Now, here’s the kicker—these guys are still in HIGH SCHOOL. They tour pretty prolifically in western Mass, and have developed a following of fans and a great reputation at the venues out there. You would never guess that these lyrics and chords are coming from 4 high school guys. Although their future is a bit uncertain once graduation rolls around this year, Define, Hero? is totally worth a serious listen.
You can check the album out at http://otsogofficial.bandcamp.com/. I’ve been listening to it for free for almost 2 months now as I slacked off on this review, and I ended up buying it because it is just that good. Let’s hope we can get them out to Boston for a show soon!