Review:: Cinematics | The Epilogues

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It’s an easy thing to make comparisons for bands. There are the obvious influences in certain genres – pop/punk bands pay homage to Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, Green Day, etc., things along those lines. That being said, there are those rare acts who, like a breath of fresh air, give you something you can’t quite place a finger on. Band in focus: The Epilogues. The fact that I can only think of one band off the top of my head to draw a strong correlation to (Vagrant Records alumni The Comas) is a pretty decent sign that I should be expecting something great.

The Denver quartet, comprised of vocalist Chris Heckman, bassist Jeff Swodoba, drummer Jason Hoke, and keyboardist Nate Hammond, throws together a mixture of sounds and styles into something entirely their own.

From the first notes of Cinematics, the guitar-hook and drum-roll intro of “The Shadow King,” the album delivers consistency that others neglect to provide. The smooth, gentle vocals and light strum of “Call Me a Mistake” lull you into a relaxation before Hoke leads the track into a heavier direction. Feedback and distortion connect this with the booming “My Misinformed ‘John Hughes’ Teenage Youth,” the first real standout on Cinematics. An echoing introduction repeats itself through a vocally-gorgeous chorus, supported by an eerie swirl of static-coated vocals.

Where “John Hughes” reaches for arena walls, the soft introduction of “Hunting Season” begs to be bounced off of the walls of dirty, sweaty, small clubs, not strictly due to the soaring vocals of Heckman, but the lyrics that support it – “Oh what have I become … / I can feel it now / Yet all the things I think I want are very things that push my friends aside / And I need them now, oh I need them now / I’m afraid it’s all for nothing.

The brief “Foxholes” winds into “Paradigm Shift,” a dance-inducing epic that grows more with each second. Featured on Rolling Stone’s site as a Daily Download, it’s an obvious choice to showcase The Epilogues’ skill set. Heckman’s vocals, whether clean or strained, are terrific, spotlighted by a supporting band performance that could make major-label bands feel like disappointed in themselves.

“Closer” brings a smooth shoegaze mood, while “Animals” is a dance-rock romp led by a heavy stomping drum and guitars that The Killers’ Hot Fuss could have used on a track or two. Tempo highs and lows counteract each other, dropping in and out without much warning.

A quickly-strummed acoustic guitar mirrors itself above a blipping kick drum until Heckman’s shouts lead into the chaotic “The Fallout,” filled with buzzing synth, precision drumming, and steady bass before fading away, bringing the title track in on its coattails. “Cinematics” is one-hundred-and-fifty-six seconds of the sounds of ebbing and flowing synthetic violins, pushing and pulling before arriving at “The Keene Act,” a nearly seven minute marathon that begins with the same swirling “Cinematics” ends with, and delivers another example of Heckman’s vocal range and capabilities.

With the exception of “Foxholes,” “The Wondrous World of Will Dupree” is Cinematics’ shortest track, timed in at just over a minute and a quarter. Somber, serene piano brings the listener by the hand into the finale “Saboteur,” a curveball of a song that starts softly before blowing the hinges off of the doors, morphing into a grand affair, ending Cinematics in perfect fashion.

The Epilogues are a do-it-yourself band, and always have been. A major label deal was within their reach, but it turned out that the cards weren’t dealt in their favor. However, the band took it in stride, taking their fate into their own hands. As a group, it seems they understand the importance of not wasting time. They’ve put a serious effort into producing a stellar album, and listeners’ time will not go to waste.

Rating: 4.25/5
Total Runtime: 48 Minutes
Release Date: November 6th, 2012

Tracklist:
1. The Shadow King
2. Call Me a Mistake
3. My Misinformed “John Hughes” Teenage Youth
4. Hunting Season
5. Foxholes
6. Paradigm Shift
7. Closer
8. Animals
9. The Fallout
10. Cinematics
11. The Keene Act
12. The Wondrous World of Will Dupree
13. Saboteur

The Epilogues is:
Chris Heckman – Vocals/guitar
Jeff Swodoba – Bass
Nate Hammond – Keys
Jason Hoke – Drums


Written By: Eric Riley

Review:: Cinematics | Set It Off

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Is “orchestral pop-punk” a musical genre? With A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out-era Panic! at the Disco, The Matches, and The Used circa Lies for the Liars, we’ve experienced our fair share of hyperactive string sections providing us with something new and catchy. Now, with Tampa’s Set It Off, we have another group headed in a great direction with their debut full length Cinematics.

“Thoughts That Breathe” is a brief 28-second introduction that makes you feel like you’re being dragged into the castle’s dungeon, a quick half-minute of eerie violins and creepy synthesizers before leading directly into “Nightmare,” which introduces us to fast-paced romp led by Carson’s high vocals back by additional strings and piano work.

The basic lead-in to “Swan Song” draws back the theatricalities of the previous few minutes, showing Set It Off’s ability to tone it down (a bit, the strings come back later on in the track) but still deliver. The lull doesn’t last long, with the delightfully-chaotic “Plastic Promises” following. Two minutes in, a shouted “Are you ready?” brings in a swaying choral combination of gang vocals, horns, and a brief Carson falsetto that teases something great before a lullaby carries the album into “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

At this point, this is the best point on the album. The band is cohesively great in all elements, and Carson’s vocals are spot-on (listen to him sing “internal clock” at 1:18). Another break from the music is a shout-out to “all insomniacs” set to swirling violins before a heavy breakdown and the grittiest vocals thus far.

“No Control” starts with slow piano and clean vocals, but these are quickly replaced as Danzinger summons the rest of the band to interrupt the brief peacefulness. The cleanest, most-classical use of the strings section brings us into “Dream Catcher,” where Set It Off shines. The album’s best and most positive song has Carson singing “It’s almost like I fell asleep / my doubts have seemed to fade / because I’ve opened up my eyes to see / I’m right where I plan to be today. / Cast your net, cast it out / and I hope to God you scream and shout / It’s everything you want and maybe more. / Doesn’t seem out of reach / hit the ground and run with both your feet. / Here’s a lesson that I hope to teach / believe you’ll be a dream catcher.”

Both “Freak Show” and “Distance Disturbs Me” give solid performances both vocally and musically, but neither really stands out after following the tracks before it. On their own, they are actually quite good, but fail to make many waves when placed between the album’s two highlights – “Dream Catcher” in the front, and “Dad’s Song” following them up.

Another slower song set to piano, “Dad’s Song” is a tribute to a father and a stellar performance, progressively building with each chorus of “So I’ll say I finally wrote your song at last / sorry that this one came out so sad. / Every tear I had / was shed for the man that gave me a better sense of life and meaning to motivate. / There’s no shortcuts to success / I’ll wait for his guiding hands / my guardian angel until the very end,” until the full band deliver a powerful outro played underneath a heartfelt Carson wailing “Tears can’t run dry when I start to cry / when I hear people speak of how / you’d be so proud of me. / And now I hope this song will reach your ears / that solved all my darkest fears. / I once was blind, but now it’s clear / wherever I go, I know that you’ll be near.”

The synth-infused “I’d Rather Drown” is an aggressive, gritty, middle-finger-in-the-air full of fast piano keys, witty lyrics, looping background vocals, and a catchy clap-track before fading away into “The Grand Finale,” a violin-filled perfectly-fitting conclusion we’d expect from Cinematics. It gives us our first taste of heavy screams, and the long wait makes them work even better.

With such a varying degree of musical tastes that Cinematics could appeal to, and an impressive tour resume over recent months to boot, there’s no reason Set It Off shouldn’t expect to see a spike in their popularity in the very near future.

Rating: 3.75/5
Total Runtime: <40 min
Release Date: September 18th

Tracklist:
1. Thoughts That Breathe
2. Nightmare
3. Swan Song
4. Plastic Promises
5. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
6. No Control
7. Dream Catcher
8. Freak Show
9. Distance Disturbs Me
10. Dad’s Song
11. I’d Rather Drown
12. The Grand Finale

Lineup:
Cody Carson – Vocals
Dan Clermont – Guitar
Zach Dewall – Guitar
Austin Kerr – Bass
Maxx Danzinger – Drums


Written By: Eric Riley