MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK

LIVING GHOSTS (E)

Artiest / Band: 
ABSINTHE JUNK
ABSINTHE JUNK

Absinthe Junk is a quartet hailing from Nashville (Tennessee) and Dayton (Ohio, USA). The band plays an alternative kind of metal meets (progressive) rock and is fronted by singer Blair Smart, a lady who also plays the violin, viola, cello, keyboards and guitar. Other band members are Patrick Himes (keyboards, lead guitar, background vocals) and currently Matt Arseneau (bass) and Ben Bruno (drums). On this record, for the most part, we hear other musicians playing drums and bass. The singer seems to have said her band was called 'a female fronted Rush'. Although her voice reminds of Geddy Lee's a bit, I can hardly find any real resemblance between this music and the works of these formidable Canadian rockers. The opening tune sounds like an up-tempo power trio tune: the drumming comes with a lot of fills, the bass plays an important role too and the guitars are heavy and with quite a bit of distortion. The piano gives a more poppy edge to the song and the interlude is slower and more melodic. The way Blair Smart sings is hard to describe: there's a lot of power and emotion, but technically her voice would require a bit more training. There's no natural vibrato there and my feeling is that most of the time it's hard labour for her, especially when reaching for the higher notes. The addition of the violin in the instrumental track Road To Damnation reminds of Kansas yet the music of Absinthe Junk is more metal orientated. Rock meets pop in Dragonflies In Hurricanes, a more melodic song in which Smart sings with a more gentle voice, partly as a duet with herself. In Sweet Vaccine there are two styles combined: popmusic in the verses, more powerful metal in the choruses. Blair sings, or rather shouts, somewhat over the top here. The title track is a bit spacey, lots of echoes, no real lyrics in a style getting close to new age, with a second part in which the violin plays accompanied by the guitar and the chords sounding a bit like Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven. The next track Swear To Me is an up- tempo tune in the vein of the first track. Again the singer seems to have trouble finding all the right tones but the music is driving and her voice tends to put a spell on the listener. The catchy chorus in Rust seems to be in contrast with the more turbulent verses and again there a more melodic interlude, being a sort of a prelude to an instrumental part with a nice synth solo. Although I love hard rock and metal I tend to favour the ballads more than the other stuff, especially if a band is playing loud and with a lot of distortion. The sliding guitar and the lyrics softly sung by Blair seem to be more in balance with each other. Assassin is a melodic rock tune, but in contrast the choruses are a bit monotone and Blair gives all she's got again, but this kind of singing means nearly shouting and is not particularly my cup of tea. The last track Road To Damnation Pt 2 is a classic 'headbanger' hard rock style. Blair proves she knows how to play the violin quite well.

The successor to this album is already available. I thought I would like the music but in fact I didn't so that gave me a hard time to write something sensible about the album. Blair being a multi-instrumentalist and Patrick evidently being a capable songwriter, there must be a lot of potential there and from what I've heard, the new album Death In The Afternoon is living proof. When the band calls their music alternatively progressive I can go with the 'alternatively', but I wouldn't call it progressive music, rather (hard)rock with a number of more mellow spots.