Carbon 9 The Bull
by Ken Mac Vicar
Carbon 9 is an L.A. based progressive hard rock band that was born five years ago in the psyche of vocalist Stacey Quinealty. Carbon 9’s sound is crafted by the charismatic Stacey Quinealty (vocals) along with the sonic crunch of Darwin DeVitis (guitars), the creative and artistic vision of Danny Cistone (backing vocals), and the pounding precision of rhythm section Curtis Porche (bass) and Matty Milani (drums).
On The Bull, Carbon 9 delivers modern hard rock with an industrial twist, without losing sight of the key element of any great song, melody. With mixing credits that include Rom Zombie, Tommy Lee and members of Perfect Circle, Carbon 9 is in good company to deliver music that is dark, haunting and heavy while still melodic and hooky. The band manages to fuse the best elements of industrial modern rock with many of the elements of classic rock. In particular Quinealty’s lyrics and vocals lift the music beyond cliché, at times he sounds like a cross between the heady style of Geddy Lee and the theatrical imagery of Freddie Mercury.
The album’s constant them is really the role of the individual in society and their ability to cope or not cope as the case may be. The use of technology in their music is almost a paradox when set against the intimacy of the lyrics, making them sound almost desperate in nature when compared with the antiseptic sound of artificially created music.
The album opens in unassuming fashion with “What is We’re Made of:”, a brooding intro track that‘s basically Stacey’s vocals over computer generated backing effects. The song serves as intro in more than one way, establishing the lyrical tone of the album as Stacey continually writes of the individual struggling against the modern world. That theme is further reinforced in “Life is Crawling Over Me,” a song that opens with a Rush like synth riff before ripping into a biting late nineties grunge riff . The heavy riffs continue with “My Friend,” a hard hitting rocker built around a mean riff and some excellent rhythm section work. The song is highlighted by Stacey’s vocal range which moves effortlessly between the subtle growl of the verse and the soaring punk influenced chorus.
That excellent combination is repeated in “Somebody like Me,” a combination of dark, brooding verses, and a hook filled chorus all held together by a an progressive bridge section. In particular, the bass playing of Curtis Porche allows them to seamlessly pull all these influences together to create an outstanding modern rock track, reminiscent of Dream Theater at their best. The band ventures further into pop territory with the title track, “The Bull”, abstaining from the pounding guitar in favor of some more subtle and intricate work. The song is highlighted by Stacey’s heartfelt vocals, and some excellent instrumental work that shuns the traditional solo for a more interesting instrumental break.
The band does a 360 and bravely takes on Danzig’s signature tune, “Mother,” faithfully re-creating the mood of the song through the opening riff and verse. The chorus however takes on an almost pop like feel which some may fine fault with. In all farness to Stacey, it would be difficult for anyone to sound as menacing as Glenn Danzig, and overall the band certainly does a credible job in covering a song that so strongly identified with an artist.
Carbon 9 moves back into familiar territory, both lyrically and musically with “Butterflies in my Head,” a superb mid-tempo rocker. The song opens with a funky riff that’s quickly augmented by the band’s tight rhythm section; in particular, the bass playing of, Curtis Porche is again a highlight throughout the song. The chorus is full of hooks and great backing vocals that catch the listener immediately.
The Eastern themes are continued in “For You”, with perhaps a nod to the Styx songbook. The song opens with images of orchids and butterflies accompanied by a classical piano and string section before bouncing into an excellent crunchy riff backed by simple but effective rhythm work. Suffice to say the chorus will certainly remind fans of a certain age of another song using the Japanese word for thank you in the chorus.
Carbon 9 moves away from the Eastern theme in “This Life”, a multi-layered track that’s almost two different songs. While the first half is rather ordinary, despite the solid chorus, the second half really falls into place as the tempo picks up, although the use of the children’s vocals is a bit clichéd.
“Mary Mannequin” sees the band diving back into their more industrial side opening with a menacing bass riff that leads into a Sabbath like Rocker in both tempo and attitude. Stacey’s intense lyrics and snarling delivery make the track a winner “I’m not Broken” is an up temp rocker that takes a great
understated riff and adds some welcome punk attitude with lyrics like “I went to Guess and I went to the Gap, but it all seemed like a load a crap, give me my skulls, my cigarettes, GQ isn’t in my alphabet”. It’s an excellent change of pace as Stacey’s lyrics take control rather than representing the
victim who has little or no control.
“Loving You” again showcases the band’s duality, the heavy snarling riff of the bridge feels almost our of place next to the light rhythm of the chorus, but it’s the superb rhythm section and the range of his vocals which make such a journey possible.
The band showcases this ability to the max in “I’m on My Own” which opens with almost spoken lyrics over a simple riff that slowly and continually builds into a ripping chorus. The bridge after the chorus is pure LA metal at it’s best, it’s loud, catchy and begs the listener to sing along, without the typical chicks, cars and booze lyrical themes. Speaking of LA metal, “Lonely in Love” is GASP!, a classic power ballad complete with an intermittent heavy catchy, riff soaring backing vocals and just a classic
solo. If every power ballad released in the 80’s had been this good, the genre may have never died. Once again, the lyrics and performance allow the song to overcome the cliché of the genre.
The album ends just as it opened, in a rather funky fashion with “Tongues”, an almost spoken piece over a tribal Native American beat. It’s an excellent companion piece to the opener, allowing the listener to catch their breath and think about what’s they’ve just heard.
Label: World Sound
1) What is it We’re made of
2) Crawling Over Me
3) My Friend
4) Somebody Like Me
5) Bull, The
7) Butterflies in My Head
8 For You
9) This Life
10) Mary Mannequin
11) I’m not Broken
12) Loving You
13) I’m On My Own
14) Lonely In Love
16) Untitled Bonus Track
Available at Carbon9.com
HRH Rating: 8.5/10