Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Rose - Songs For The Ritually Abused
   
Musical Style: Rock Produced By: Randy Rose
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website: Randy Rose
Tracks: 10 Rating: 80%
Running Time: 53:53

Rose - Songs For The Ritually Abused

Randy Rose, better known as drummer and co-lead vocalist for the at times techno and modern and others hard rocking but always inventive Southern California based group Mad At The World, released in the spring of 2017 his fifth solo album, Songs For The Ritually Abused.  His solo career actually dates to 1991 and his Intense Records debut solo offering Sacrificium (under the Randy Rose heading) but hit its stride with Healing and Crazy Little World from 1993 and 1994 respectively (both also on Intense but under the Rose moniker instead).  Switching to R.E.X. Music in 1995 for his fourth solo album Into The Unknown, he rounded out the nineties and early turn of the century period with four more albums as part of Mothership prior to going on extended hiatus until the release of SFTRA.   

What is the reason for the detailed biography?  One must first understand the artist’s musical background prior to approaching SFTRA, which comes across in the form of a ‘mishmash’ or ‘potpourri’ of styles in which all of his past influences have been filtered into a unique and complementary whole.  Consider the manner in which the album at times reflects the stoner-doom-groove of his early solo material (think Sacrificium and Healing) but also touches upon a modern to alternative vibe (not unlike Mad At The World and Mothership) or even some psychedelic nuances (Crazy Little World comes to mind).  Throw in added classic rock to light progressive edges and one can understand the wide array of comparisons in which SFTRA has invited, including Queens Of The Stone Age, The Doors, Queen, Danzig, The Beatles, Black Angels and Black Sabbath.

While not concept related, SFTRA proves every bit dark and contemplative lyrically as its title (as reinforced by the artist in his press material): “This record is dedicated to anybody that didn’t have a voice to scream through the soundproof walls in that old modular trailer.  For the little ones that tear up with the aroma of melting wax. For the ones with all the bruises and all the cuts, that were told nothing ever happened… it was all a dream. For the ones whose voice was stolen before they could say a word.”

He continues: “It says in the Bible that God is close to the brokenhearted and the crushed in the spirit. So whether many of you can relate to this, or know someone who can, most of these kids don’t even make it out of the institutions. I have met several of these people, teens and adults- and there’s something so similar about all of their stories, they’re consistent- there is a way out. That’s what this album is all about- the escape for the abused”.

I am not going to go into a great deal of detail in regards to lyrics due to their cryptic nature - we will just say that while well thought out they are also open to interpretation - but I feel that the following verse from the albums title track best pinpoints what the artist is communicating:

God’s heart breaks for the ones
Who can’t help themselves
And He has a place to store their tears
There on His shelf

Album opening track breaks down three ‘parts’ over eight and a half minutes.  Part one, “The Tortured Girl”, starts its first minute to a bouncing child like rhythm prior to plundering through its two truncated verses at a torrid hard rocking pace.  Second, “Bye Bye Hands”, tempers things to ballad territory as lush vocal melodies, piano and delicate guitar carry its amiable minute.  Do I detect a faint hint of The Beatles?

Albums Queen-like title track covers the final five.  “Songs For The Ritually Abused” carries over the affable sentiments, with more keen vocal melodies and exquisite guitars (preserving the lofty verses) but also a heavier rocking tone (for the solemn refrain).  All the while, the delivery of guest vocalist Marc Martel brings to mind that of Freddie Mercury.

“Keep You To Myself” proves a romping modern hard rocker not unlike “The Tortured Girl”.  The song presents with a reverberant feel in which a turbulent low end and non-stop hooks - the ‘I want to keep you to myself’ chorus borders on the infectious - lead the defiant way.  Ominous keyboards carry things instrumentally.  Equally notable are the artist’s earthy, middle register vocal abilities.

“Medication” also takes a modern hard rock slant but wrapped in the greater up-tempo package.  Expeditiously driven front to back, the song comes across in the form of the best Alice In Chains grunge rocker you every heard - released in the mid-nineties I can see it finding a niche on FM radio - but the best part are the atmospheric Galactic Cowboys like backing vocals that buttress the sinuous refrain.  Thickly woven bass helps separate “Medication” further.

“Whispering Whales”, of the psychedelically influenced title, is the first of several tracks to reflect the artist’s stoner-doom-groove background.  With distorted lead vocals leading the way, the song gives rise to a becoming darker and somber feel as another unflagging bass line anchors the low end and feedback driven lead guitar the instrumental moments.  This one might be unwavering in terms of heaviness, but it fails to forsake melody at the same time.

Piano ballad “Kellan And The Illistrator” finds Martel returning with his upper end vocal register (again, somewhat akin to Freddie Mercury).  The song proves haunting in form, with viola in the backdrop lending a sinister feel that melds with the albums shadowy imprint.

Returning things to hard rocking territory, “Micky” also reflects upon a stoner groove driven form while presenting with some heavier to lighter contrasts in the process.  In terms of the former, hulking guitars allow for some of the weightier moments, but when factoring the latter, occasional calmer passages deliver a refreshing melodic touch.  Outside of the opening eight-minute epic, I hesitate to use the word progressive, but “Micky” features its share of time signatures.

Ensuing cut “The Girl” stands out as one of my album favorites.  The song mournfully plods its seven minutes in doom-like fashion, perseverant to heavy and slow paced riffing but not repetitive either as it presents with more than enough variety in the form of stately if not ornately done harmonies.  Bluesy lead guitar carries things instrumentally.  Once more, the artist’s middle-register vocals lend to the music at hand.

“Monster” proves aptly entitled with its prodigious form: no-nonsense guitar walls empower its austere setting, while the mordant low-end sets ever bit the severing tone.  Punchy hooks rise above the surface, with the ‘I am not your monster!’ chorus intricately catchy and instrumental interlude distorted as it gets.

“Hell’s Locked From The Inside” tempers impetus further with its melodic propensities.  A return to a modern form, the song proves hollow and echoing with its bass guitar driven groove but also lighter in terms of its gently tinctured backing vocals.  Trenchant guitars reflect upon the doom-like, while guitar leads approach the acidic.

Album closes in ballad territory to “When Will I Be Loved” as keyboards, lightly clashing symbols and melodic lead vocals set the subdued tone.

As an independent crowd funded release, SFTRA delivers the goods production wise with a pronounced low end (plenty of thick bass in the mix) and guitars and keyboards in needed portions but not to a fault either way.  Packaging works as well, with a 4-panel digi-pak featuring an inner slipcase for the CD alongside band photos and detailed liner notes.  Lyrics are available at the artist’s website.

SFTRA adds up to a good modern to stoner doom to groove hard rock album.  Yes, it is a bit on the dark side musically, a particular I note in a positive sense in light of the sensitive (and every bit swarthy) SFTRA lyrical themes.  Randy Rose, likewise, does a good job both vocally and as a keyboardist not to mention his signature position on drums.  Lone constructive comment revolves around how the album is a bit ballad heavy (subject at hand lends to it, though) and could use a bit more guitar soloing (modern music does not necessarily allow for a great deal of instrumental proclivity in the first place).  If a fan of the artist’s previous work or any of the musical styles presence then I can see SFTRA being of interest. 

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “The Tortured Girl” / “Bye Bye Hands” / “Songs For The Ritually Abused” (8:36), “Keep You To Myself” (5:47), “Medication” (3:43), “Whispering Wales” (4:17), “Kellan And The Illustrator” (4:28), “Micky” (4:35), “The Girl” (7:03), “Monster” (4:25), “Hell’s Locked From The Inside” (4:32), “When Will I Be Loved” (5:28)

Musicians
Randy Rose - Lead Vocals, Drums & Keyboards
Randy Rose Jr. - Guitars & Bass
Steven Rose - Guitars & Bass
Joe Giddings - Vocals, Guitars & Bass
Ray Rose Jr. - Drums

Additional Musicians
Marc Martel - Lead Vocals
Ken Springfellow - Lead Vocals
Jon Auer - Lead Vocals

 

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