April 7, 2011

CD Review: Whitcomb: 'Crown Park'

Deliciously dark 'Crown Park' rides on the back story of a children's poet unraveling to madness.


Whitcomb's got it all. Spawned from the tortured souls of Portland veteran musicians and riding on the super-creepy back story of a children's poet unraveling to madness, the group's debut, "Crown Park," is deliciously dark. With a practiced precision, Whitcomb's sound is actually pretty versatile; an acoustic blues sound poem can give way to full-scale tombstone-rattling rock on a dime.

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PRODUCED, RECORDED and mixed by Jonathan Wyman at the Halo


Based on a five-star scale

Take the semi-ballad "Voices," where an Incubus-style verse devolves to a half-time, double-bass-drum rumbling chorus and vocalist Brant Dadaleares, with a feel for the epic, emphatically snarling "burial grounds" over and over. The effect is genuine heavy-rock goose bumps, and a nervous need to glance over your shoulder for ghosts.

Sometimes, Whitcomb just grinds. "The Bat" churns out vampire electricity with chugging monster guitars, crackling drums and demonic harmonies. It's awesome. Makes you want to jump around a room screaming "whooooo!" way more than you should on a Tuesday afternoon. The bubbling-cauldron finish makes a cobwebby vacancy where there just was raging noise.

This is a great start for a new concept band in a town full of them. On "Crown Park," Whitcomb's songs are better suited for plowing ahead at a blistering pace than dragging their feet in molasses grunge. But the group will only get better with time, riding the wave that this record will surely create. Despite its evil-ridden music, Whitcomb's future burns bright.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland and Boston.


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