NO POWER NO CROWN - Be Peace…Or Else

Steve Coleman, guitarist/singer/writer for No Power No Crown, has been pursuing me for while to check them out live. NPNC is a band based out of Charlotte NC and since I am a fairly common fixture on the scene and write plenty of show reviews for bands, every once in a while I become a hot commodity with bands asking me to give them a shot in hopes that I will feel inspired to write something for or about them. Lucky for me Charlotte is a fertile area for some incredible bands, which makes this “job” so much easier.

It took a while for my schedule and the band’s schedule to work out allowing me a chance to see them. I was immediately hooked. There was something about their sound that appealed to me instantly along with the fact that they did two of the most important things I look for in a live band: they made an instant connection with the crowd and they enjoy the hell out of doing what they do.

Available only as a download right now, their debut EP Be Peace…Or Else was my first chance of hearing their music outside of a live venue. There are only three songs, but in those three tracks it gives you all the information you will need to know about NPNC: 1. they play a combination of hard driving metal meets hard rock with punk elements; 2. As if those elements weren’t enough they add some rap and r&b into the mix; and 3. Despite not entirely capturing their live feel in the studio, it gives one a taste of what the live experience would be like.

The EP opens with the dark and chugging “Rebuild,” the heaviest song of the album. It has an almost thrash meets punk meets rap feel. Lord Nelson delivers the lyrics with a perfect flow that leads into this aggressive sing-along chorus.

The second track, “Degenerated” starts off with a bouncing drum pattern into this catchy “punkish” riff. Nelson sings/raps the verses with this great sarcastic punk sneer laced with an r&b tone. It leads into yet another great chorus and is interspersed with the incredible guitar playing of Coleman, Jeff Triece, and Justin Campbell. Yes folks, NPNC has three guitarists, all of which are amazing lead players, none of which with any egotistical trappings.

The EP finishes with an excellent cover of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones song “The Impression.” I absolutely love their version of this song. Even without the signature horns of the Bosstones, the song is still a rousing, fist throwing catchy tune, made even better with more of a metal edge. Plus you have the drum styling’s of Tim Stewart and the solid bass work of James Nunn (also of The Fill-In’s) you’ve got a super talented group of guys ready to melt your faces with their unique brand of metal/hard rock.

I’m glad I was finally able to get connected with this band. Not only do I love their music, but I love getting to know the guys. I guess I can now disclose here that, similar to what I was doing with Paragon a couple years ago, I am now working in close relation with No Power No Crown offering my writing abilities for public relations type stuff. I’m honored to be a part of this family now. And just like I said when I was working with Paragon, no matter what the future holds I have made some great friends with the members of this band. And despite my close working relation with them, I will not mince words – if something sucks I will be the first to say it. Lucky for them, nothing has sucked yet. As for the EP Be Peace…Or Else, it’s just a sample of what the band has to offer, and just the beginning of what the future holds for them musically. ****

Review by Chris Martin

THE FIFTH – Confessions Of Man

If you know me, you likely know that anything that resembles radio friendly hard rock is something that I simply don’t enjoy. Outside a handful of bands that I “lump” into that category, very few of them actually play that style, they’re just sonically on the periphery of it. And by that I mean they don’t sound like every band that crops up on those stations every five minutes. Whether its better songs, better guitar work, or better singer, those bands stand out to me from the rest and are the exception to my rule. The Fifth is a band that has some similarities to that style, but on every count knocks it out of the park.

Little did I know that when I started talking to Roy Cathey on Facebook on the Metal Sludge page of all places, that he was the singer for the band Cold Sweat in the early 90’s with guitarist Marc Ferarri of Keel fame. Had that album come out a year or two earlier when I was a walking talking encyclopedia of everything hard rock and metal I guarantee that his name would never have slipped my memory. I absolutely loved the Break Out album, but it came out at a time when I had just started college and was starting to delve into other styles of music so my passion for knowing everything about a band got sidelined if for no other reason there was no way I could retain all this information about so many bands.

When I did put two and two together it was a pretty big “duh” moment for me, but it still didn’t change the fact that I liked talking to him and respected his take on music. I was especially entranced by his audition he sent to Jake E Lee of Red Dragon Cartel for the singer position. Roy did a spot on version of “High Wire” that should’ve gotten him hired immediately, but for whatever reason he wasn’t and turned his focus back to his own band The Fifth, out of the Fayetteville area of NC.

When I saw on his Facebook page that they were getting ready to release the limited edition album Confessions of Man, I knew immediately I had to have it. Since it was a limited run and all priced the same I was one of the lucky 10 to get a signed copy in gold ink.

I had no real idea what to expect from the album, but I had enough faith in Roy’s ability that even if it was a compilation of his favorite polka songs it would still be a great listen. What I got instead was an album that swirls around radio friendly hard rock, but is way heavier than anything Saving Abel or Three Days Grace could ever hope to record, with a collection of songs that run the gamut of hard rockers like “Burn” and “Wake Up” to haunting ballads like “Memories For You” and “One More Day” to darker groove songs like “The Gift” and “Dirty Money.”

Cathey’s voice is the strongest part musically for me. Going for a deeper, soulful sound than he did with his Cold Sweat days the emotion of the songs is born. He has this ability to give every word its own feeling and meaning. Guitarist Icky Jim is a riff machine, as well as giving some superb solo’s that are perfect for the songs. With bassist Franko and drummer Darius Rose added in, you have a tight band that defies labels on so many levels.

I’m glad that any friendship I have with Roy wasn’t predicated on fanboy love of his past work. I’m also glad that The Fifth isn’t an attempt at reclamation of past glories. This is an excellent album that may or may not be available still as of this writing. If it is I highly recommend getting a copy while you still can. I also hope this is only the beginning of a long life for this band. Confessions of Man is an excellent album that has all the markings of being a hit. ****1/2

Review by Chris Martin

DOGBANE – When Karma Comes Calling

In 2011 the band Dogbane released their debut Residual Alcatraz. Though I didn’t review that album I found it to be quite an impressive first album. Hailing from Greensboro NC, the band took to the scene in 2010 with a sound and style that was pure classic metal while at the same time maintaining a sound not entirely retro. Mixing a NWOBHM sound with a strong dose of doom, they started to make a bit of a name for themselves on the local scene. While out supporting the album and making new fans, the band strengthened their bond and became one of the strongest live supporting bands playing in the surrounding areas of Greensboro. Last year the band took a break from playing live to begin work on the sophomore release When Karma Comes Calling.

As strong an album as Alcatraz was, Karma is leaps and bounds beyond it. With their debut you could tell that they were still figuring themselves out and learning how to play with each other. With the new album they have built a solid foundation which in turn brings a maturity to the song writing and a tightness of the chemistry in the performance.

Still maintaining that excellent balance between NWOBHM and doom, some of their not so obvious influences are starting to show with songs like “Calm Before the Swarm,” “Free Spirit,” “Warlord,” and “Sands of Time” you hear bits of KISS, Anvil, Trouble, and a great bit of Thin Lizzy in the twin guitar assault of Jeff Rhinehart and Mitchell Allred. Both men are supremely talented musicians and gel very well with each other. Just as equally cohesive is the rhythm section of bassist Kevin Davis and drummer Jerry Cloer. They are that strong anchor that gives Allred and Rhinehart the set-up to play some brilliant riffs. Vocalist Jeff Neal has a voice that has so many rich tones from a haunting lower range to an excellent falsetto.

Dogbane are a band I suggest keeping an eye on because they will only get better as time progresses. With their top notch musicianship, to their instantly classic songs, to the fact that they are all super gracious gentlemen, I can only see their star rise higher and higher, and I can think of few bands more deserving. Dogbane continues the groundwork they laid down with their debut, and has made an even more impressive run with their latest When Karma Comes Calling. ****1/2

Review by Chris Martin

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Power Plays w/c 6 July (Mon-Fri)

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