by Mark Allen
– Senior Columnist —
Picture this: the lush goth-rock of Evanescence entwined with the fragile-yet-powerful vocals of Flyleaf filigreed with some muscular modern hard rock and occasionally sprinkled with some metal-core or scream-core or whatever core you want to call it. That gives you a general gist of the sonic turf upon which Picture Me Broken have chosen to stake their sound.
Singer Layla Allman (daughter of Gregg Allman, and shame on you if that name doesn’t ring any rock ‘n’ roll bells) has an Amy Lee-meets-Lacey Sturm quality to her voice while the chugging guitar riffs are ripped right out of the modern hard rock playbook. The band also makes sure to incorporate some screams and growls to jack up their metal credibility and appeal to the Hot Topic crowd. (Shouldn’t “Hot Topic metal” be an official genre by now?) It’s not the most original thing you’ll hear this year, but its familiarity is of a decent quality.
Damning with faint praise … or praising by lack of overt damnation? Your call. Because you have heard this stuff plenty of times before, perhaps even ad nauseum, but Allman’s vocals have a distinct enough timbre to stand out in a crowded modern rock market and the beefy guitar lines complimented by some electronica flourishes and polished production are good enough to ensure you don’t hate them.
Like a high-class escort that knows what she’s doing, the songs themselves offer up some nice variety. The opening track “Torture” is anything but, using Gothic undertones and slick keyboards to impact melodically on the ears while also providing a solid hard rock kick to the cochlea. Sealing the deal is a nice commercial chorus that could easily garner some airtime if modern rock radio would pay attention.
The band morphs from hard rock into metal mode with “Mannequins.” Much less mainstream with a heavier sound and serious screams that steer it into melodic metal-core territory. Those screams also prove that Allman is not a one-dimensional vocalist, not just another cute face with a sweet voice; this girl can deliver those harsh vocals like she’s got sandpaper in her throat. This alluring mix of the pretty with the powerful gives this EP whatever edge it may have.
Mellow follows heaviness in “Beautiful Disguise,” a standard piano ballad, the kind every female hard rock singer seems obligated to perform at some point. Some people can get enough of this stuff; other folks find these slow, melancholy songs cause them to vomit like a bulimic with four fingers tickling their tonsils. You decide which one you are.
Wrapping things up is “Nothing Further From the Truth,” a solid track with a commercial hard rock edge and radio-friendly chorus to accompany the well-done riffs. Original? Uh, no … but the band makes no claims to originality in their stated intentions. What matters is that they are not lame, and sometimes that is good enough. This is one of those times.
While it is impossible to call the music perfect—too much “been there, heard that” — this EP does show off the band’s multiple facets and proves they can avoid sounding monotonous. With Allman’s impressive vocal talents leading the way, this band could easily gain some traction in the modern hard rock/metal market, especially if they sharpen up their edge. They are right on the cusp of being good enough to compete with the big guns, so pay attention to Picture Me Broken … odds are you haven’t heard the last of them.
Genre: Modern Hard Rock, Metal
Layla Allman (vocals)
Dante Phoenix (guitar)
Jimmy Strimpel (guitar)
Shaun Foist (drums)
3. Beautiful Disguise
4. Nothing Further From the Truth
Label: Standby Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10