Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Album Review: The Infinite Staircase Enlists Rock Star Friends, Prepares To Climb With "No Amends"

Before even hitting the play button on No Amends, the latest album from The Infinite Staircase, I couldn't help but notice some of the credits in the track titles.  Every song features a recognizable name:  Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust), Chris Caffery (Trans Siberian Orchestra), and Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society) were just some of the "rock stars" listed next to the titles.

With that type of name dropping, I made a couple of assumptions prior to the moment when the initial notes oozed through my earbuds:  First, that the album was gonna be firmly in the mold of its most active guest artists and, second, that the album was gonna be supergood.

Only one assumption was right.

Right from the opening measure of the first song, "Can't Control It," it was clear that this album was not going to be a second generation knockoff of the growling metal of Sevendust or Black Label Society.  To the contrary, the kickoff tune combined a higher-than-typical-for-2013 male vocal range, a fresh rhythm, and a crisp production that introduces one to the color-outside-the-sonic-lines sound of this East Coast band.

Track 2, "Slowly At Least," keeps the band's positive momentum rolling by alternating the pristinely clean guitars and sweet melody of its verses with its equally-crunchy-and-catchy choruses.  The common thread with the preceding song is the fact that this album really captures an energetic and engaging performance that is sometimes absent in other albums.

Mr. Witherspoon makes his appearances in the bridges of "Just To Meet You There" and "The Things We've Done."  On the latter, that bridge gives way to a short but interesting interlude featuring a string section.  Not to stop there with orchestral elements, the chorus returns with separately sung melodies weaving in and out of each other to bring the song to an unusual but pleasing climax.  These special ingredients make "The Things We've Done" more of a composition than a rock song, but the band pulls it off tremendously well.

The Infinite Staircase hits you up with a little spice of life with the title track - a moody number featuring just singer Lenny Cerzosie, an acoustic guitar, and a background vocalist.  The vocal harmonies introduced in the second verse remain beautiful throughout, even as Cerzosie goes into his higher, grittier range to raise the dynamic of the song.

Making it this far into the seven-song album, I was guessing that The Infinite Staircase is too fun of a band to end the album on a down note and they surely did not.  Any doldrums felt during "No Amends" (the song) are quickly obliterated with "The Pride" - an unabashedly happy number that feels more like Triumph than 7D or BLS.  The high note jumping from the gullet of guest vocalist Kevin Martin (Candlebox) in the last
chorus is something not heard since Aqua Net was as much a part of a band's gear as guitar picks or drum sticks.  I have to admit to something here...the song had something so familiar about it that I had to do a little googling to see if it was a classic rock cover.  However, I could not find anything that suggested that it was anything but a good, retro-feeling original song.    Like everything that The Infinite Staircase puts forth on this album, it works.

So, this album is definitely not some sloppy seconds of the aforementioned special guests.  But it definitely is supergood and worth checking out for any fan of hard rock that stops just shy of the rock/metal line of demarcation.

# of Facebook page "Likes" for The Infinite Staircase at the time of this writing:  1239.

Helping Hands Rock Reviews prides itself on discovering great bands just before they break.  We record the number of Facebook Likes to watch our favorite artists grow and to track how far we are ahead of the curve.