Friday, December 6, 2013
By RICK JOHNSON
"Hard rock" is one of those vague, amorphous, catch-all musical descriptors, and it's a label that's been hung on everything from '70s AOR to the hair metal of the '80s and the grunge of the '90s.
HOW IT RATES
THE HOLLOW GLOW -- "THE HOLLOW GLOW"
PRODUCED BY Ben Carroll
Based on a four-star scale
Portland trio The Hollow Glow's new self-titled release incorporates elements from all three of the aforementioned styles, with an emphasis on hooks and a heaping helping of melody to balance out the crunch. Yes, hard rock is certainly an appropriate way to describe this album, but there's another word that describes it just as well: Fun! This is good old-fashioned "turn it up and don't think too hard about it" rock 'n' roll.
If you're the indie-hipster type, steer clear. This will be anathema to you. There's no shoe-gazing, no half-mumbled lyrics shrouded in metaphor, and certainly no deep political statements. If, however, you've ever owned a Van Halen, Motley Crue or Three Doors Down record, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by The Hollow Glow. What the band serves up are straight-ahead, no-nonsense riff rockers tailor-made for the high school parking lot or small-town cruising around on a Friday night.
Singer, guitarist and main songwriter Ben Carroll structures his songs around simple but catchy riffs, and it's his musical hooks that drive the album. Riffs like these stick in your head and invite repeated listens. Carroll also produces the album, and manages to get a big sound from just three musicians.
Drummer Travis Barton and bassist Tom Connors form a solid rhythm section, and Carroll does a terrific job of allowing the bass and drums to provide a strong sonic foundation without allowing either instrument to dominate the mix. Carroll's vocal's are clean and clear, blending nicely with the guitars to provide depth and melody. The guitars have enough distorted bite to satisfy metal-heads, but still have enough polish and sonic sheen to let the melody shine through.
Lyrics aren't the band's strong suit. Lines like "You are getting under my skin/ I'll pull you even further in/ Your love is like a deadly sin" from the opening track "Crazy Like You Read About" are particularly cringe-worthy. But lyrics aren't the point here, it's the riffs. And the riffs are the type that make you want to put your fist in the air, especially on the chuggingly propulsive "Doom" or the driving and catchy as all get-out "Zombies."
No hard rock album would be complete without the requisite power ballad, and The Hollow Glow offers up a textbook example of the form with "Inside." Short and powerful, "Just a Dream" closes out the album with an almost Sabbath-like riff that's among the best on the record.
The volume knob is your friend here. The Hollow Glow are not trying to move you to tears, they're not trying to get you to think a certain way, and they're certainly not trying to offer up any sort of deep insight. What they are trying to do is ROCK you. So relax, turn up this album and let the band do its job.
Preview The Hollow Glow's self-titled release at thehollowglow.bandcamp. com/album/the-hollow-glow and download the tracks for $6. Catch the band live at the Asylum in Portland on Nov. 9. More information is at thehollowglow.com.
Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook.