Friday, October 4, 2013

Album Review: Girl On Fire Brings The Heat With "Not Broken"

Hardcore.  Metalcore.  Deathcore.  Grindcore.

Sometimes it seems like, if a band rocks hard, it has to dip at least one toe into the core-suffixed waters with growling, drop-tuned instruments, and angry facial expressions that would give nightmares to Satan himself.  Well, that is not the case with new artist, Girl On Fire, who recently released their debut album Not Broken on Century Media Records.

Don't get me wrong, Girl On Fire brings their share of energy and angst to their music.  But they clearly eschew the heavier approach of their label mates in favor of a more arena rock path towards the musical promised land.   

This is evident right from the start of Not Broken.  The leadoff track, "The Takedown," grabs the listener by the throat with its gnarly guitar riff and doesn't let go through this anthem destined for the country's big stages.  After listening to this track and the next two - "Reminds Me of You" and "Losing My Identity" - I'd describe Girl On Fire as a band that combines the pop/rock accessibility of Lit and the streetwise grit of New Medicine with just enough bottom end to keep their name in the conversation alongside their heavier peers in modern rock.

The next anthem comes in the form of Track 4, "One Step Away" - its vocal snarls and simple staccato guitar chords hearkening pleasantly back to Love/Hate's early work.  And, while I'm making the last of my comparisons, I'll say that "Monster" will appeal to people who love the groove of Finger Eleven's hit "Paralyzer."

Though most of the album is mid- to slightly up-tempo, minor key, just-a-tad dark, guitar-driven, straightforward hard rock, there are some curveballs that Girl On Fire throw to prevent your attention from drifting too far.  Middle-of-the-album track "Believe" delivers the collection's first ballad and "Break These Chains" goes the opposite direction, providing the fastest and most punklike tune with some killer gang vocals.

Not Broken also has a lot of material based around the themes of fighting challenges and surviving hardships, which should make the album easy to relate to for the average teen.  Case in point is the lyrical run at the end of the chorus of the title track:  "You can drag me down 'til I'm out of breath/You can rip my heart right out my chest/Not broken...I'm not broken."

On the last song, "Run," the acoustic guitar makes its first appearance, and is joined by soft vocals and strings that serve as a welcome accent.  The absence of drums and the atypical song structure suggests that Not Broken is providing only a hint of the musical diversity Girl On Fire is capable of providing.

As a whole, Girl On Fire's energy gushes through the speakers when Not Broken is properly cranked.  It is the type of album that makes you yearn to see the band live.  Though their show is unlikely to be characterized by non-stop circle pits like those of their whatevercore label mates, if Girl On Fire can replicate the feel of their debut album in the live environment, it is certain to be a scorching good time for all in attendance.