The first thing you need to know before you even press play on “Shadowball” by Laces Out is that this is 100 percent punk rock. And when I say “punk rock.” we’re talking the raw, bordering on ’80s hardcore with a touch of mid-’90s emo kind of punk.
If the closest you’ve ever come to a punk record is the last Green Day album, turn around and walk away. This is not for you. From the production to the performances, this is strictly a DIY affair. There is no polish of any kind on display here. And for the most part, that’s a good thing.
Opening track “Joe Rogan” tears out of the gate at a breakneck pace while guitarist/vocalist Jake Regier shout-sings over the roar of amps with treble knobs cranked to 11. Guitars and bass sound as if they were mixed by pushing the faders up as far as they could go, while the vocals remain reasonably clear despite the half sung-half screamed delivery.
Reiger shares lead vocal duties with bassist Ryan Stevens. And while Reiger is the more dynamic of the two, the contrast between his earnestness and Stevens’s intensity make for a compelling combination. On tracks like “Dweeb” and “Motor Man,” one gets the impression that Reiger could really sing if he wanted to, but perhaps chooses not to for fear of losing authenticity.
Stevens, on the other hand, sounds more like a metal vocalist, barking and shouting himself hoarse through speedier numbers like “Battlescars” and “Talk.” Drummer Seamus Stevens even gets in on the act with a raw but effective turn at the vocal mic on “Seamuson.”
Structurally, the songs alternate between hardcore thrashers with mosh part breakdowns like “Overrated,” to more melodic fare with the odd hook or two like “Dweeb II” and “(You Know That I Could) Use Somebody.”
Other tracks like “A Greater Portland” are more complex than they seem on first listen, deftly combining multiple styles like punk, metal and emo-core with an ever-so-subtle pop sensibility. These songs would no doubt take on new meaning in the live environment, with lots of ragged harmonies and shout along choruses just begging for audience participation.
Laces Out is certainly not for everyone, but as a warts-and-all document of pure primal energy delivered with a healthy dose of heart and humor, “Shadowball” works. An album like this can’t be approached like your average singer-songwriter record; these songs don’t suck you in so much as punch you in the face. But don’t be surprised if, in spite of your better judgment, you find yourself climbing back into the ring with Laces Out, ready to duke it out again.
Stream the album for free and download it for whatever price you think is appropriate at lacesout.bandcamp.com/album/shadowball.
Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at: