Cleveland is always proving itself to be a fertile birthing ground for new rock. Theatrics, the debut album by Via the Sun is yet another example of this – polished, dynamic, and heavy, all the elements necessary for a solid listening experience!
Theatrics is a modern rock album in a world increasingly turning away from the genre. Though it may be harder to get people’s attention to listen to such music nowadays, Via the Sun will demand attention from the discerning rock fan for a number of reasons. For me, vocals are always a focal point for the listening experience. Via the Sun vocalist Chris Donley certainly delivers the goods on this album, and his soaring vocal harmonies prove compelling to the listener. The main feel of the album is a positive, uplifting vibe, colored with heavy detuned guitars to provide a dark contrast to the bright vocals – which are further contrasted by the screamed emphasis points (to make sure you’re paying attention).
Though I tend to pay the most attention to vocal performance when I listen to music, the rest of the band brings it big time throughout the album. The guitarwork from Steve Simbeck and Derek Hatfield is compelling and energizing in its own right. On the track “Present Prize”, anyone who digs harmonization gets more than their money’s worth; harmonized lead riffs combined with harmonized vocal melodies, particularly in the refrain. Acoustic guitar is used well to provide a balance between the heavier parts of the song, which also includes a pretty killer solo.
Granted, Via the Sun are not necessarily breaking new ground with their album. The first thing that came to my mind when I listened to such tracks as “Cliffdiver” or “Present Prize” was another of my favorite bands (Breaking Benjamin) who also is listed as a main influence on Via the Sun’s songwriting on their Facebook page. “Present Prize” evokes thoughts of A Perfect Circle with its Maynard James Keenan-like pacing. Donley (whose credits over the last 15 years include Sindust, Americanrockstar, Dawn Lights and his solo acoustic projects) and co. are accomplished musicians in their own right, and their years of experience of songwriting and live performance show throughout the album.
These are professional-level musicians making meaningful rock songs. And even as Cleveland seems to be turning its back on the genre, with rock radio stations in this city turning to talk and jazz stations, there is still an important audience of rock fans to be reached in this city. With well-crafted music like that which is found within Theatrics, reaching that audience won’t be a problem. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this album – recommended if you like Breaking Benjamin, Taproot, and/or Battlestar. Make sure you check them out at their CD Release show, this Saturday January 21 at Peabody’s, with Blackout Superstar and Impending Lies. Rock!
Gene’s Favorite Tracks from Theatrics:
1. Present Prize