Song Review for new Seismic song “Freedom”

Front-men are the face of the band. A change in vocalists may have different effects for a band. The band may not have the same appeal with its fans especially where said departed vocalist has been there for a long time and become the signature voice for the band. So much so, that it would be hard to picture the band being fronted by someone who sounds different. Take for example the effect the departure of Flyleaf’s Lacey Mosley had on the bands relative decline. Or take the example of the effect of Mitch Lucker’s death had on Suicide Silence’s sound.

Then there are at times when a  change in vocalist casts a shining light on the prospects of the band. It may usher in ground breaking change, driving benevolent winds into the sails of the band. Thus the corner is turned and the outfit marches on to global success. A good example is when Bruce Dickinson joined Iron Maiden.

Well, back home there are also examples of a bands that have changed vocalists. Seismic being one of them. Seismic is a Christian rock band. It is one amongst a few of that kind with the likes of Skygrave’s Twilight, scene pioneers Rock of Ages and Bloodshed. Seismic has been around the Kenyan rock scene for a while, performing at big shows like March from the Underground 2012, Nairobi Rockfest and many others. The new line up consists of Rose on vocals, David, Moses and Amos Kiptoon on Guitars and Alex on Keys. George Atsula’s clone (may the force be with him) fills in for the drums on live shows, I’m not sure if he’s there for recording also, that is something I will have to confirm.

Seismic are a band that a lot of people enjoying watching. However they havn’t recorded a lot of material. So in a review such as this, where for judiciousness sake comparisons have to be made, there is sadly a dearth of  poverty in comparative material as far as Seismic is concerned. They have released just the one song, one that many around the rock scene must be familiar with called “Your Grace”.

Your grace is a tenacious song. The thick and  grinding guitars are attention grabbing and had a relatively attractive draw to it. The guitars also had a very strong element to them with the band making good use of power chords. There are short passages in the song that were sweetly melodic. The melodies are so smooth and exact it was so hard not to fall in love with this song. This melodic element was slightly enhanced by the easily identifiable keyboards. The chorus majorly benefited from the keys although it was disappointing to see the tameness with which the keyboard was played. To add on to that there was a practiced exactness in the way the song transitioned at every stage.

In this new song however there are some trade-offs. Where “Your Grace” succeeded in being grounded and powerful, “Freedom” isn’t. That is the case for a number of reasons. Seismic has since changed vocalists. Duncan Muriira now sings for alternative metal band “ParkingLotGrass”. Duncan’s voice on your grace switches from mellow to gruff. for some periods during the song some menacing growls take centre stage. While the song did have some sweetness to it, it is largely remembered for it’s more driven and bold yet expansive atmosphere.

Freedom on the other hand goes for a cleaner and fine-tuned sound overall. The main riff to my delight is uncluttered and steady. It is delivered with speed and backed up by some simple drum work. To some degrees, the production in this song is a level above their previous work and that is a bonus.

Another aspect of “Freedom” that is really pleasing is how it blends the intensity in the main riff with the calming yet soaring vocal display by Rose. This is where the difference in approach becomes evident. “Your Grace” though a gospel song, felt like it was dominated by too much angst. With “freedom” comes a liberating feeling that is both evangelical and surrendered, almost like the song is visited upon by some hallowed entity.

“Freedom” unlike its predecessor however is a much less complex product, making use of the verse-bridge arrangement and simpler melodies. There is nothing memorable about the way the drums are executed and the keys are largely anonymous.

There are moments where the listener will be disappointed to note that song will descend into complete chaos. For instance the song begins so well with a main riff that is clear enough and catchy. The vocals follow through perfectly and Rose does a good job although she struggles to keep in toe with the pace of the song. Then, when it comes to the chorus the rhythm is thrown into a complete shambles and the instruments seem to collide against each other. From this point onwards the song tries hard to redeem itself.

Without more this is evidently a very enchanting and inspiring piece. There has been no radical decline occasioned by the vocalists. But freedom is undone by a lack of clarity and instruments that seem to be chocking the best aspects of each other out.  There is too much going on, and it seems like the earth just cracked down the middle. It was also really disappointing that what seemed at first to be an improvement in mastering to have culminated in muffled sounds that are emanating from the bottom of a barrel.

Despite the lack of perfection in the final product, it is a song that leaves a lasting effect. My personal criticisms aside, I find myself endeared to this recent but long overdue from Seismic, a band I have grown to love. Since this song forms part of an ensemble that builds towards an Extended Play Album it will be interesting to see what Seismic has in store for rock lovers in the coming months.

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