Are you in the mood for Rock? How about Hardcore? Perhaps some Heavy Metal? Element Eighty will bring you an onslaught of power in all three capacities! Words can’t describe the originality and raw command found on The Bear, Element Eighty’s most adventurous album to date. From the precision guitars and brilliantly executed harmonics to the pummeling double bass drum grooves, you will never have a dull moment.
The best passages of this album come from the artistic freedom given to the guitars and drums, which causes listeners to feel that many of the songs are not repetitive. It’s hard to imagine a major record label allowing any band to be so technically audacious, for fear of scaring off casual listeners. The bass, drums, and guitars are just dripping with style every second of every song.
It’s not often that we can say that we’ve never heard anything like this style of playing, but Element Eighty has shattered the mold with their clever combination of diverse heavy-rock styles from hardcore, metal, hard rock, to classic rock. You can even hear the underlying classical music inspiration in the rhythm variations, rests, making all instruments converge upon the musical theme for a bit, and the way they use pedal notes. These facts testify to Element Eighty’s immense musical prowess on The Bear.
But it doesn’t end there! David Galloway performs superbly as the main vocalist in this quartet, perfectly balancing melodic (yes melodic) screaming with a crystal clear voice. His subtle inflections create a great dynamic with the lead guitars and rhythm section. Galloway’s impressive instrument paves the way for emotionally charged lyrics that will keep listeners intrigued. One of the quintessential themes on this album is the pain that haunts us from broken relationships. On the song “The Sacrifice”, Galloway sings “I know we’ve changed and the innocence is over now”, indicating the desire for reconciliation while looking through different eyes.
For those fans that have seen these guys live, you have witnessed the emotion and provocation in their music. This band provides an explosion of ingenuity wrapped in an impenetrable hard-rock exterior.
Don’t miss this band! You will not be disappointed when you experience the guttural roars, powerful beats, and unforgettable melodies of this Texan stronghold!
This album will take you places you have never been, but you will understand them when you get there. Element Eighty places listeners in a reality they can understand because the emotions are overwhelming and completely honest. One of the most prominent themes this album presents is pain; just pure, unfiltered, relationship-oriented pain. You will feel the emotion that grinds into every lyric, and you will appreciate that Element Eighty remains unafraid to show you honest expressions of their deep psyche.
Element Eighty’s unfettered style blends perfectly with the theme of the album. The guitars and bass have a prominent presence, but also support other instrumentation when necessary. The rhythms are complex, and one of Element Eighty’s strongest characteristics remains the use of non-repeating rhythmic themes. Most noted are the rhythms in which the guitars, bass, and drums drive together in order to allow the vocals to carry the emphasis. Masters of rhythm, these guys also use rests (pauses) to create grand drama.
Harmonies are mostly subtle, but they remain well placed and definitely within key. Element Eighty adds a lot of depth to their music through synchronizing the lead guitar and vocals during their songs. This effectively engages the entire band in the musical theme for a bit, and allows each instrumental voice to work well together. Another unique characteristic of Element Eighty’s music remains the grassroots feel, in which the music is not over produced with too many effects, or radio-friendly musical clichés.
The density is well balanced, and each instrument can be clearly distinguished. This is an important aspect of the songs on this album, and this clarity enables listeners to experience the important rests in the songs. The instrumentation is incredible, with improvisation-style guitar riffs and drum fills. The overall recording is spacious, allowing each instrument to operate in their most effective frequencies without disturbing the mix.
This mix places the bass drum and snare drum in the center, and emphasizes the vocal and lead guitar tracks. This is expertly done because the interplay between the vocals and lead guitars is one of the most important and prominent features of Element Eighty’s musicianship. The lead guitar tracks blend well when played with the rest of the rhythm, and also pierce through when appropriate in the song. The vocals play a key role in the melody of each of the songs, and drive home the lyrical concepts. The rhythms of the vocals stay within the song and lyrical structure, which is unique. Galloway’s vocals are always one of the signature components of Element Eighty’s work.
The Bear provides a relatable message in an intricate and stylistic package. This album pushes boundaries of the musical horizon and demonstrates that doing things the Element Eighty way is a unique rock experience.
Setting the Record Straight
Currently MYnstrel is unaware of any unfair press or slanderous reviews of this album.
Personal Connections to this Album
Spotlight Editor, Tony Abbruscato’s Personal Connections
Everyone has those moments of their lives where they remember exactly what triggered the memory. The first time I heard Element Eighty was one of those moments. I was deployed in Iraq and a few of my soldiers were playing Need For Speed: Underground when the song “Broken Promises” came on. I was so floored that I made them pause the game so I could see who the band was. I immediately put Element Eighty on my wish list since it was hard to get CDs while deployed. It was a great welcome home musical gift from my mother!
I noticed a couple of intriguing aspects of Element Eighty’s music right away, namely, they are a cohesive unit. Not only are they all brilliant musicians, but they have the rhythm and the ability to play complex instrumentation together perfectly.
Moreover, I always thought these guys had a lot more chops, and incredible new ideas to share on subsequent albums. Well, when I first heard “Killing Me”, “Price to Pay”, and “Guntruck”, I was astounded. The interplay between the instruments and vocals in “Killing Me” remains some of the best I have heard in modern rock. “Price to Pay” is definitely the most crowd pleasing tracks on the album, with a chorus that I found myself singing over and over. And “Guntruck” has chromatic guitar riffs that would make any classical guitar instructor proud.
More than once I have heard, “Can you play that song again?” in reference to Element Eighty. This is truly a working class band interested in assisting listeners, and themselves, to achieve a greater purpose. In fact, one of the most poignant stories I have ever read about these guys comes from a Myspace blog where one of their listeners tells a story in which Element Eighty’s powerful lyrics saved him from taking his own life. This amazing story exemplifies the powerful honesty and the positive impact this band can have on fans’ lives. I offer my thanks to their inventive, aggressive, and intuitive songs that remind me why I love music so much!
Spotlight Editor, Tommy Kurek’s Personal Connections
Element Eighty is up there as one of my favorite bands. There are so many talented musicians in so many genres of music that I enjoy, but this band is close to my heart. I discovered Element Eighty in 2004 while simply surfing the internet for new rock bands (there was a lull in my usual 20-CD-per-year consumption). Their sound literally jumped out of the computer at me, boldly distinguishing itself from all of the other dozens of bands I sampled that day. Not only did the band’s musical style and talented vocals thrill me, but after I got to know their lyrics, I found that I could really relate to these expressions.
Granted, some rock fans still just don’t get the scream-sing style of vocals, but that’s a shame to me. I liken it to food – when your tastes are limited, you might be missing out, and not everything tastes great the first time. The scream-sing style is actually very hard to do well, because the vocalist is hitting notes, but also coaxing their throat to put a ‘natural’ distortion on it, just like a guitarist might flip a ‘distortion switch’ on their amplifier to get the guitar sound everyone loves.
The vocal technique is hard on your voice. When I used to do 1-hour shows, I’d try to save songs like that for the end, because I could easily lose 3 pitches off my top vocal range from having to use the scream-sing style. Notice, that as a first-chair bass vocalist in the choir, I never had such problems singing songs that are more widely appreciated throughout history, like Shenandoah (I also never worked up a sweat on stage with choir).
Truly, there’s no better vocal style for the expression of power, brawn, gusto, angst, pain, frustration, authority, force, and confrontation. Let’s see Frank Sinatra or Mariah Carey try to convey these emotions and expressions as well as Element Eighty. I didn’t think so.
Then there’s this other thing. Element Eighty saved at least one person from suicide. Someone else might suck up thousands of dollars of drugs to cope with suicidal tendencies. These guys give a fan a $10 CD and save their life. How incredible is that? That’s the power of music. It also speaks to the way that the hard rock genre as a whole is largely misrepresented by outsiders who are allowed to define it. They see the mosh pits and hear the scream-singing and choose to cut the taste buds off of their own tongue immediately.
Well they’re missing out. They might benefit from the emotional release that this music is capable of providing.
While Element Eighty delivers a music experience that I have related to for decades, their use of classical music techniques is also very appealing to me. I do some of the same things in my own hard rock music. Element Eighty will always be at the top of my list. They are uniquely gifted, interesting thinkers, interesting composers, and original style-maestros!
Track 2: Victims
This song doesn’t even let you catch your breath before you are hit with some of the most amazing guitar playing on the entire album! The introduction comes in the form of a Woods lead guitar riff, followed straight away by the first verse in which Galloway shows off his vocals and the rhythm section supports with vigor.
The powerful lyrics found on this song blend perfectly with the theme of the album. The very first line Galloway sings, “Tell me how long until all of this breaks me”, announces the roller coaster of emotions listeners will experience on this track and sets the tone for listeners to enter into the Element Eighty world.
These verses exemplify this powerhouse rhythm section. Masterful use of rests accentuates the complicated drive this song creates.
The chorus blasts you with style, so much that you have to listen and wonder how the lead guitarist gets the harmonics he produces. The vocals traverse almost too easily back and forth between melodic screams and catchy melodies. An incredible technique that Element Eighty uses frequently is letting the vocals and lead guitar converge on the melody – playing the same notes for a short time. This is used in classical music all the time, in order to drive home the melody amidst passages of great depth and complexity.
Element Eighty uses that technique in this song.
The lead guitarist is not shy with the drums either. He will occasionally accentuate the rhythm by playing a riff in time with the drummer’s fill in, bringing the cohesiveness to the music. This technique creates a lot of depth to the song overall. The bridge of this song relaxes for just a second, until the rests end and the driving chorus comes back into full swing. The end of the song remains one of the best closing riffs on the entire album.
The lead guitar work in this song is simply amazing. Although the song structure is a straight forward 4/4 time signature with verses, choruses and a bridge, the use of incredible instrumentation and musical elements to provides a pure gem. Overall, this song exemplifies the theme of the album well, and prepares listeners for the ride ahead of them.
Track 5: Killing Me
This song starts off with one of the most intriguing guitar riffs on the album; Woods uses octaves, slides, bends, pedal notes, triplet bursts, rests, electronic effects, and harmonics to make a total guitar package that oozes with unchartered style.
The vocals once again pierce through with clarity, and the screaming inflects the emotional message of this song. The lyrics on this track represent some of the most powerful found on the album. When Galloway sings, “How would you feel If I told you it’s inside of me…How would you feel If I told you this was killing me”, his honesty permeates the entire song. Listeners will immediately understand and empathize with him, and the supporting instrumentation grooves with this feeling.
The overall effect? You will feel his words in your chest.
The rhythm section supports with daunting syncopation throughout, and their inventive dynamics and timing lock in the song nicely. A creative effect on the guitars answers the vocals every time “Killing Me” is uttered in this song, which emphasizes the message.
The timing in bridge completes the congruity in this piece, and the contrast of the well placed vocal harmonies offers the perfect resolution to this song. There are rests of different lengths throughout, so much that one would have to study this song to play it like Element Eighty. At the end of the song, instrumentation follows a very straight forward drive to the end in which the singer utters “Killing Me” one last time. The sustained vocals and energetic guitars work very well to establish control over the momentum of the song, and also increase the complexity by once again changing the feel.
This song engages through relatable relationship-frustrations.
Track 8: Price to Pay
This could easily be the most hummable and memorable song on the album. The message remains relatable to so many different relationship situations that listeners will place themselves right in the middle of it. Galloway’s pervasive lyrics consist of goodies like “And in my mind there’s nothing left to find…I’ve been shot down from behind…No time left to unwind” and the signature lyric of the song, “Don’t leave me standing here with my wasted time that’s all been spent now.” His vocal inflections while singing these lines add to the effect, and listeners will be drawn to their expressiveness.
The introduction offers a buildup of guitar feedback to a straight forward 4/4 drive that stays with the song throughout. The vocals melodies are some of the best on the album, and the subtle harmonies are well placed, tight, and within proper chord structure.
The guitars offer an intricate rhythm that shows great discipline in the instrumentation during the verses; the vocals carry the verse but it would not sound anywhere near as good without the lead guitar work supporting it. During the chorus, the vocals take over until it is time for the guitar riffs and drum fills to lead into the next verse, in which the cohesive rhythm machine takes over and brings it all together. An additional treat for listeners: this song provides a pretty wicked guitar solo with enough tricks to excite any level of listener. The song ends with a great guitar slide up a full octave. This song demonstrates that Element Eighty can write lasting songs that you will want to hear over and over again.
So what tracks are the music fans in the Washington DC area raving about? Favorites include:
“Sacrifice”, with that famous vocal and lead guitar chorus melodic interplay
“The Itch”, with outstanding use of rhythm section instrumentation, rests, and a lasting message
“Guntruck”, with piercing screams, pummeling drums, a great sixteenth note guitar riff in the chorus, and a terrific use of lead guitar harmonics to emphasize the consternation in the lyrical message
The musicianship on this album will impress even the most well listened fans out there. You will find yourself stunned by their use of rests as you anticipate a big cymbal crash or power chord will be played. Element Eighty writes all of their music with a fascinating control of dynamics and rhythm. This in itself will warrant a few listens to catch things you missed the first time.
Element Eighty consists of intense, cohesive members bursting with creativity and ingenuity. On their sophomore release, they once again demonstrate that the musical landscape consists of mountainous terrain, where only the truly adventurous listeners dare to explore.