Ever since I heard the bonus track What About Me on the Threshold album Subsurface, I have been curious about Johanne James as a songwriter. Now with the debut Defiance from Kyrbgrinder it is possible for me, and you, to find out more about it, as this is a band that is focused around the drummer from Threshold. Although, there is not much of the kind of music from Threshold to be found here, this is an entirely other field of grass to play at as this is way less progressive and more hard rock from the roots. Considering his part in Threshold and the fact that Johanne James has two Drummer Of The Year awards from Classic Rock Society, I guess there is no need for me commenting on the drumming more than it is intrigued rhythms and highly competent playing you will find executed here.
With Kyrbgrinder you can talk about a band sounding like King's X in my ears, perhaps with a more hard metal edge though. My Heart Bleeds, which is what you first hear, is a piece of groovy hardrock with a heavy edge and a melodic refrain, and it is hard for me to let go of the thoughts of King's X Dogman album.With the following song, and also the title track, Defiance, the tuned down groove continues and it becomes obvious that Kyrbgrinder deliver their songs in a powerful manor. At first when you listen to The Guide, and many other songs as well for that matter, they might at first seem simple but there is more beneath the surface than what first meets the ear in their dynamic compositions. It is really heavy and down to earth hard rock with a sense for melodies as well combined with a modern touch.
What About Me, that was featured on Subsurface by Threshold as a bonus track, comes out a little different when done by Kyrbgrinder, and it is perhaps this way it was intended to sound in the first place? Nevertheless, a good song is a good song no matter what, and that is obvious with this one. The song is re-arranged and kept more to the basics compared to the Threshold version as it is a stripped down version free from the electric elements that play an important role in Threshold. It is one of the highlights on Subsurface, and it is the brightest shining star here. Moreover, with Johanne singing it himself, the vibe comes out differently in the song and James proves that he is a very talented vocalist. An obvious risk with bands like these where the creative force takes on the vocals himself can leave you with results that are not that fun to listen at, but that is certainly not the case with Johanne James and Kyrbgrinder. To make it easy for myself, I would say he has besides his own personal touch a reminding sound of King's X's Doug Pinnick as well as Lenny Kravitz at times in his voice. Although, in Not In My Name, I like the heavy and raw groove in the edgy song though, but the vocals are some kind of rap-metal at its worse, and all rap-metal is of the worse in my opinion. Case closed.
That this is a good solid album there are no doubts about, but a few flaws come through though as with the mentioned Not In My Name and a couple of other tracks that really do not match up. The album has a homogenous feeling although it musically can spread a bit, but generally, I must say that I like the rough groove, the rhythmic and aggressive hard rock with an edge. In addition, the guitar playing is really impressive, and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave) as well as Dimebag (ex-Pantera) are guitarists I would like to draw comparisons to concerning the playing from Ben Glover. And he and his guitar has a big part in the more aggressive edge in the sound of Kyrbgrinder, even if an aggressive song like I Wanna Kill falls flat, the aggression works splendid in the perfect closer Greatest Weapon.
If you have not heard of a band called Apes, Pigs and Spacemen you can stop reading now. I do not know why I even bother to write these last lines, since I am probably the only one that ever listened to Apes, Pigs and Spacemen in the mid-nineties anyway, and I am most definitely the only one still remembering them and who plays their albums every now and them. However, when Kyrbgrinder in a song like Wayside come out sounding so strikingly damn close to them, I simply cannot leave this comparison out. So, just had to get it out of my system.
For future recording and live line-up, the band will look
a little different from on this album as Dave Dart and Eddie Vendetta
on guitar respectively bass will be joining Johanne James further on.