I Surrendered My Heart to I Prevail

Last month, I went to see one of my favorite bands perform live and walked away thinking about a completely different band I had seen for the first time that night.  I Prevail opened for Hollywood Undead and absolutely blew my mind that night.  Not only was their set energetic and ground-shaking, but I took home their EP and kept it on repeat for a week straight.

I Prevail is a Post-Hardcore band out of Detroit, Michigan, featuring a fresh, clean sound both on stage and on their record.  Their name sets a high expectation for their music, when I think of the word “prevail” I think of defeating enemies, conquering castles, and continuing onward in the face of despair.  Their EP “Heart vs. Mind” carries this theme that their name introduces throughout its entirety, breaking down what it means to prevail.

I was a little bit nervous when I first popped in the CD as I drove home from the show and the first track opened with synth.  Now, I don’t have anything against electronic music, but I’ve had experiences with some post hardcore bands that use way too much over produced synth to make their music a little more mainstream-friendly and it doesn’t usually turn out too well.  I Prevail did not do that, thankfully.  They stay dedicated to their melodic, heavy roots, throwing in some synth, piano, and strings to accent a well rounded sound.

The second track on the EP “Crossroads” spoke to me on an intimate level, which is what music is supposed to do.  At first, I expected it to be just another cliche “hold on, it gets better” song that is a post hardcore staple, but as I listened, I realized it was much more.  “You gotta dig deep and bury all the thoughts, the thoughts that tell you, you’re not good enough…..I always get built up, but broke right back down” are words spoken from the heart of someone who has experienced depression and knows what it feels like, everyday.  When Eric screams his parts, you can feel the truth and experience behind his words.  When Brian sings, it is almost like he is trying to reach out to his bandmate.  The dual songwriting on this track works brilliantly and brings a freshness to a topic that sometimes seems overdone.

“Love, Lust, and Liars” and “The Enemy” were both released as singles before I Prevail debuted their EP and both are a perfect representation of the theme I introduced earlier.  “Love, Lust and Liars” is a great twist on the usual sad breakup song, instead of dwelling on someone who has hurt you, it is a fast paced, heavy hitting song that is a big “fuck you” to the person who destroyed this relationship.  Alternatively, “The Enemy” is a campaign against a person who has never done anything good for our heroes.  “Face Your Demons” is another story in this theme, taking prevailing to another level: revenge.  Sometimes, moving on requires destroying someone else.  Here our heroes destroy an evil person who hurt someone close to them, making sure their name is sullied for all time.

This EP is eight songs of unforgiving, relentless soul-felt music that doesn’t slow down for a second, even when we get to I Prevail’s ballad of a love song.

Once again, these guys show us a different side to something that could have turned out cliched.  Often we get the token love song on an album, slower, something that may appeal to listeners outside of the metal scene and that’s all well and good.  After a run of hard hitting metal tracks, I Prevail brings us an acoustic ballad about unrequited love.  The weakness, it seems, in every hero, except here they do not win the girl.  In a string of songs that talk about victory and overcoming everything in your path, this track shakes up the theme a little bit, showing us that even a warrior loses some battles.  But the EP picks right back up again for the end, bringing us another heavy song before they close out with the cover song that got I Prevail a lot of the spotlight they are seeing today.

Normally, I wouldn’t go through the effort of talking about a cover song, but I Prevail’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” is such a great cover that I have to touch on it.  I’ve been a big fan of the Pop Goes Punk albums for a while now and a distressing trend I have noticed in the later editions is how unoriginal a lot of the covers are.  Often they end up sounding just like a guy singing a song that a girl originally did, not a lot is changed musically, melodically, if anything is changed at all.  I Prevail do a number on Taylor Swift’s popular song, you can recognize the familiar melody, but Brian takes it out of Swift’s register and Eric’s screams, especially in the bridge, bring a completely different element to the song lyrically.  The rest of the band turn the pop song into a metal song and it is delightful.

I will not hesitate to say that I am stoked for a full length album from these guys.  I cannot wait to see what they have to add to their theme that they have delivered on so far.  I’m a sucker for well written lyrics, balanced cleans and screams, and a heavy sound and I Prevail delivered all of those things and more.

Not the Kind of Rodeo You Were Expecting, Was It?

The Nixon Rodeo is a local Spokane band that caught my interest three years ago, when out of the blue, I happened to miss them opening at Rock Hard at the Park, but ended up running into their drummer, Ethan Harrison, at a Shari’s in Spokane Valley after the show.  I remember having a short conversation with him that ended with him running out to his car to grab their debut album “Made To Bleed” to give to me.  That album has not left my car since and every chance I’ve had, I’ve gone to see them live.  I have been addicted ever since.

It was my pleasure last weekend to not only watch them play one, but two, two hour sets to celebrate the release of their new album “Relentless” and snag a copy.  I’d been streaming it on Spotify the week previous and listened to it a few times in the car with my boyfriend, but I was itching to get the CD in my car on repeat.  So I listened to it eight times in one day and here I am, writing a review on what is easily my favorite album of the year.

The Nixon Rodeo has always been a heady blend of punk, alt-rock, metal, and post hardcore that can satisfy the heart of any rock and roll fan and they delivered all of that and more with the new record.  The quiet intro sparked with gunfire and distant sirens is reminiscent of Metallica’s “One” and brings the same sense of anticipation that doesn’t quite wholly prepare you for what you are about to experience.  In what is arguably a second intro, Ethan jumps in and introduces The Nixon Rodeo, because why the heck not introduce yourself on your own record.  His opening screams “Raise the bar” set the tone for the entire album.  The Nixon Rodeo definitely raised the bar.

They open with the single “Hesitation’s an Indication” that showcases all that The Nixon Rodeo has to offer: Brent’s incredible, diverse, vocal range, Josh shredding out a classically rock and roll guitar solo, iconic punk rock gang vocals lending an anthem-like feel and Ethan’s powerful screams lacing the track with a hardcore vibe.  Diving right into their fourth track with another single “Now you Got My Attention” we are immediately assaulted with the same level of vocal strength and complex lyrics.

The Rodeo brings a mixture of cleans and screams that are often at odds with each other, creating a dichotomy that singles out certain parts of the lyrics.  Definitely my favorite example is in “Back and Forth” where during the pre-chorus, Brent sings “I don’t wanna talk” and Ethan cuts in screaming “I wanna talk!” and takes over.  This primes the way for Ethan’s spoken part after the chorus and makes you stand up and pay attention.  To counter that, the two vocalists also use each other as a balance for their melodies, lining up cleans and screams in perfect execution.

“Uncontrollable” delivers the tried and true anthem for all of those who have experienced the pressure of trying to be someone that they are not.  The Nixon Rodeo throws us their take on this often overused cliche and delivers a fresh stance that I credit to great writing.  A vein that runs through all of the Rodeo’s lyrics is rhyme, which usually sounds awful and forced, but here adds a poetic structure that makes what simply could have been a good song, a great song.  For instance:
“And now we’re still here waiting
Understating, illustrating
A tragic ending to a fucked up song
I hope everyone will sing along”
There are definitely incomplete or off rhymes that don’t match up with some of the more complete rhymes and jar the ear a bit, but for the most part the songwriting is solid and poetically executed.

What I enjoyed most about this album was how every song was different.  Different lyrically, musically, structurally.  Some tracks were resoundingly metal, like “Hesitation,” “Found ME In Team” and “Now You’ve Got My Attention.”  There was a slow, pop punk ballad, “Scandal” and some classic rock and roll tracks, “Back and Forth,” “Uncontrollable” and their cover of “Billie Jean.”  Then, in absolute Rodeo style, they brought in a completely unique and great element to the track “Now or Never,” the inclusion of the “Rodeo” chant.   The battle cry of The Nixon Rodeo’s fans.  The song itself is about the fans and the appropriateness of including the chant lent an intimate feeling to the song that could have been accomplished no other way.  They round out the album by including a fast paced angst-y punk song “Keep Me Awake” and another slow, beautiful ballad in “A Chance to Tell You.”

It is worth mentioning that this is a talented group of guys who not only recorded songs on this record playing more than one instrument, but they switch it up on stage too. Travis jumps on drums for Ethan during the more scream-heavy songs and I’ve seen Brent take over the bass, though they like to bring up guest musicians to help out during these songs as well.  Some bands can hardly pull off one sound live, let alone a mix of different genres, but The Nixon Rodeo does it all.  Their unique musicality isn’t lost during the live set and they are one of the most fun, high-energy bands I’ve seen perform.  They sound clean and well-rehearsed, something I’ve learned to appreciate from a live band.  Two nights, two hours, back to back and I couldn’t have been more impressed.

I could sit here and dissect every song on this album and explain exactly how each part makes the whole a great record, but I will refrain from spilling my guts on the topic.  The Nixon Rodeo’s third album, “Relentless” is for those of you who love rock music.  The diversity of the songs, the original lyrical content, and ability to do each of these songs justice live, two nights, back to back, is what makes “Relentless,” and The Nixon Rodeo, outstanding.