Friday, September 27, 2013

Tantric - 37 Channels

37 Channels
Pavement Entertaniment, Inc.

Despite being a long time follower of Louisville (Kentucky, U.S.) based outfit Tantric, I never quite know what to expect from the band whenever a new album emerges. A lot of that stems from the fact that the band have in recent years gone through some major line-up changes, which has meant that each and every one of their four releases to date have a different sound, which has worked in the band’s favour, and other times for the worse.
So after a lengthy gap of four years since the release of ‘Mind Control’, sole original member Hugo Ferreira (Who is the band’s lead vocalist, and who also plays guitar and bass throughout the album) has once again put together a new album under the Tantric banner in ‘37 Channels’. And as expected, the album represents another evolutionary leap both sound and direction wise in the band’s history of continual change.
Tantric’s fifth album begins with guitar heavy ‘Again’, which is familiar territory for them, and the kind of track that could have easily slotted on the band’s last full-length release (Which is without a doubt one of the band’s heaviest releases to date). But while the song has its interesting moments on the guitar front, the chorus structures let the song down. Sure, Ferreira’s weathered vocals sound in good form, but the choruses don’t really stand out quite as much as they should, which in the end gives the song a forgettable feel, right from the start.
With the opening cut on the album leaving me feeling a bit disappointed, I wasn’t holding out much hope for the rest of the album impressing much. But to my surprise, the follow-up track ‘Blue Room’ is an absolute winner. With a strong drum groove locked down by guest drummer Greg Upchurch (Eleven/Puddle Of Mudd/3 Doors Down), and fusing together Tantric’s trademark mix of acoustic and electric guitars throughout, ‘Blue Room’ is classic Tantric, and quite possibly one of the strongest and memorable tunes Ferreira has offered up in years.
Proving the former track was anything but a one off, the country-tinged/harder edged blues rocker ‘Mosquita’ (The first single lifted from the album) hits hard with plenty of attitude, and features an anthem-like chorus that’s sure to become a fan favourite in no time at all. Guest vocalist Shooter Jennings helps give the song a slightly different sound from what you would otherwise expect from Tantric, and I have to say that it works incredibly well.
‘Loss For Words’ is a surprisingly stripped back song that features some equally gritty vocals from Ferreira that gives the song a very raw sound, while story telling ‘Broken’ and the piano based ballad ‘Fault’ (Which features a guest appearance from Hinder’s Austin Winkler on lead vocals) showcase the softer side of Tantric’s sound on the new album, all the while showcasing the many sides of Ferreira as an artist.
But while the experimental side of the above mentioned tracks works, not everything works. ‘My Turn’, which sees Ferreira duet with Leif Garrett, is fairly unremarkable on the vocal front (The pseudo rapping from Garrett just doesn’t work for me), and the use of programmed percussion to give the song a modern edge just gives the song a truly hollow sound overall. And as for ‘Girl In White’, I can see what Ferreira was aiming for, because in amongst the dirge of the heavy guitars and drumming, there’s an interesting song. But much like the album opener, the choruses don’t stand out as much as hoped, and the heavy handed guitar sound overshadows the songs better attributes.
But ‘37 Channels’ does have its truly inspired moments. ‘Gravity’ is typical Tantric with its easy going acoustic rock sound and sing along chorus, while tracks such as ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ and ‘Bullet’ (Which again features Winkler on co-lead vocals) are solid rockers that give the album some quality moments. But in terms of personal favourites, both ‘Rise’ and ‘You Got What You Wanted’ are the album’s real stand out cuts. Not surprisingly, both tracks are very reminiscent of the sound the band presented listeners with way back on their self-titled debut back in 2001.
While Tantric has always been the kind of band to change from album to album, there’s no denying that ‘37 Channels’ is Tantric’s most diverse and experimental release to date. Yes, there are still plenty of the traditional Tantric sounding songs on the album, but there are also some creative offerings that sound unlike anything Ferreira has dared venture before under the Tantric banner. And as mentioned earlier, sometimes that’s a good thing, and other times just too far removed from what fans want to hear from the band.
In the end, ‘37 Channels’ took some time to grow on me. And while I don’t feel everything on the album works, the album has enough great songs to win over even the most pessimistic of fans. Myself included.

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© Justin Donnelly

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