Rival State – Apollo Me (Shock) CD REVIEW

HERE’S ONE FOR all you stereo nerds: a hard rock record that actually sounds good on a full spectrum hi-fi system.
It seems that every step I’ve taken towards a more capable hi-fi, the less enamored I’ve become with the sound of rock albums. Generally, heavy rock albums have become unlistenable because, somewhere along the recording process, they’ve become compressed to death. Apollo Me breaks that stalemate, and makes me want to listen to rock again.
So, who are these guys? Astonishingly, they’re from New Plymouth (don’t laugh), and the album was recorded there, and produced and mixed by a chap named Matt Hyde. It turns out that he’s a British producer who has worked with Slipknot, amongst others.
The style? Well, the closest comparison I can think of is the more hard rock tunes from Steven Wilson’s Porcupine Tree; unlike that group, however, Rival State never lapse into moody or atmospheric Pink Floyd territory. Their thing is tightly arranged, tightly played, angry-sounding hard rock that’s packed full of meaty riffing.
Sadly, there’s little soloing, or even room for the group to launch into extended riffing sessions sans vocals – the singing and the song are obviously of just as much importance to Rival State as the rocking out, and while that fact probably makes them a more acceptable band to a wider audience, for me, there’s not enough to keep me listening attentively for the 11 tracks of the album. Different strokes and all that.
Don’t hold it against them, but one of their members was until recently a member of Kids Of 88. It seems that Rival State was, in fact, a high school band formed in 2002, and that the members quickly went their own ways and forged their own careers. In 2011, they got back together, and this album is the result.
It’s clear that these guys have been around, and toured (individually or collectively) overseas, and the liner notes about the songs are quite candid in describing time spent dealing with heroin addiction and various other steep learning curves and life challenges.
Rival State sound like earnest young men, and I’m just happy they’ve got something to sing about other than demons, wizards or that hot devil woman.
But what I’m really happy about is that, after months of hearing records by major international hard rock bands that sound thin and crisp on my system, Apollo Me is living proof that someone still has the balls not to mix it for the MP3 generation.
Too often, even if the producer and engineer get a record sounding beaty, meaty, big and bouncy, when it’s sent overseas for the mix and mastering, the labels have standing instructions for the mixing and mastering boffins to crank everything to ‘loud’ so that all the real dynamics are lost, and everything just sounds like a wall of toxic screech. What I really like about this record is that I get the impression that what I’m hearing at home is pretty damn close to what the producer was hearing on his monitors in the studio. And that’s got to be good. GARY STEEL
Music = 3.5/5
Sound = 4.5/5

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