American Hollow : Whisper Campaign
by Joe Mi
Whisper Campaign is the full-length debut release from Salt Lake City-based prog rockers American Hollow. Blending genres from progressive rock to classic rock and metal and influences from acts as diverse as Pink Floyd, Tool, Led Zeppelin and King Crimson, American Hollow is trying its best to dish out a unique sound.
Formed in 2008, the Utah quintet definitely marches to the beat of its own drummer. American Hollow is carving out a distinct niche in the prog rock arena and have chosen to focus on keeping the music melodic and relatively low key. American Hollow mixes the intense guitars, bass and drums of progressive rock with more atmospheric/ambient elements to create a dark and moody album, filled with lush melodies primarily driven by bass and drums.
“Terronoia” opens the album and is a rather longish instrumental, with an almost military-style drum line and backed by a smooth bass line courtesy of Nathan Alan Gilbert. It seems a bit drawn out, perhaps a minute longer than it should have been – but it does build in energy and power as it adds some keyboards and guitars. It flows nicely into “State Of Decay,” a biting social commentary that features Jameson’s fine alternative-rock voice. He has a somewhat limited range but uses all of it very well, singing clearly with power and passion. The next three tracks are titled to appeal to the geeks among us. Soft keyboards and interesting guitars lead into “Operator,” which has a bit of a free-form modern jazz or atmospheric feel to it. Guitarist Kyle Mullikin makes it really sing during the intro. “Variable” is filled with warm guitars, smooth vocals and pleasant keys courtesy of Gilbert and Mike Larsen. This flows nicely into the more intense and guitar and drum driven “Constant” – in effect, these three songs are really one musical “arc.”
“Gravity” is a very simple song – basic vocals and a fluid bass line fade into low-key drums – and it could be described as somewhat “ambient” or “atmospheric,” but it does give Jameson a chance to really stretch his vocal chords at the end. Dissonant guitars, heavy bass and pounding drums make the opening of “Illumineye” a bit different, and the track is filled with nicely handled tempo and tone changes. “Prizards” is the epic track on the CD that is more than 13 minutes long and filled with all that is good about progressive rock – subtle keyboards, heavy guitars, tempo changes, slick vocals, building musical intensity and fantastic bass and drums. If one song exemplifies the quality of American Hollow, it is this one. “Blow Wind! Bring Forth Storm” is the high-energy heavy rocker and is the only track that really differs from the others. It further displays the band’s talent and versatility. The second instrumental, “Terrannoyed,” wraps up the album and is a shorter, tighter and more interesting one than the opener.
Overall, American Hollow’s debut is quite good. The engineering gives the album a pleasant and warm tone, emphasizing the subtleties and softer nuances of the music. The album has a good flow, especially the “3 tracks are really one song” of “Operator,” “Variable” and “Constant.” Weaknesses are few here – perhaps only the fact that most of the tracks are of similar tone and tempo. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish one song from another, but this is more of a concept album, rather than a CD of individual songs.
If you are a fan of the prog-rock genre, there is much here to like. Whisper Campaign has proven that America Hollow will be a force on the progressive scene. The band plays tightly and is always melodic and in control, giving solid musical performances from start to finish. It is refreshing to find a band that is concerned with the small things, choosing to emphasize the details and use soft passages in their music rather than trying to overwhelm the listener with a massive wall of sound. Recommended!
Genre: Progressive Rock
Kyle Mullikin (guitars)
Nathan Alan Gilbert (bass, keyboards)
Mike Larsen (live guitar, keyboards)
2. State of Decay
9. Blow Wind! Bring Forth Storm
Label: American Hollow Records (Indie)
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10