Playing Against Expectations

It is rare to be able review an album, where one has access to such an intense stylistic, artistic range as Jarrod Compton. I first saw Jarrod, and honestly, have only seen Jarrod play live with The Real Fakes, where he wields that beautiful flame-orange Gretch like a wizard. But, as I was digging into Daydream the first album from Moons, Birds & Monsters, I found myself very excited to have so much different material to source. Because not only does Jarrod play guitar, mostly lead, and sing, backup/ second vocal, in those two bands, but he is also the creative mastermind behind Comptalo. All of this is to say nothing of the Kid Dynamite & the Blast era. Phoenix, this guy though!

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Now, lots of folks in town are in multiple bands. This is nothing new, in fact, it is quite common. However, in Jarrod’s case I found it immediately striking. For instance, let’s take Brenden McBride for example, the bass master from Wyves. He plays bass in not only Wyves, but Hyperbella and Treasurefruit as well, and there are certainly stylistic differences in the bands.

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Love ya Bass Man!

Both Killa Maus and Haley Green have side projects along with Scattered Melodies, Killa is also in The Hourglass Cats, but again I was not immediately blown away by the stylistic differences. Thomas, Scotty, and Curtis are all over the place between Pistoleros, Dead Hot Workshop and Ghetto Cowgirl, but again… I would say these bands are in a very close grouping.

This is simply not the case with Jarrod Compton. In fact, the first artist that jumped to mind with this degree of interest, talent, collaborative spirit, and range… was Trent Reznor.

BTW: I saw this tour. In Phoenix. It was amazing.

Now, that is a really huge statement, but look at some details. The amazingly talented genius behind Nine Inch Nails has as many musical degrees as David Bowie, played Saxophone with Bowie, has scored video games (Quake), has a very different side project with his wife (How to Destroy Angels), has scored films (Lost Highway), has one of his songs sampled in the all-time longest running number one hit in history (Old Town Road), and can play something like 15 different instruments. You do not have to be a fan of Nine Inch Nails to admit that Trent Reznor is one of the most talented creative musical minds in America. Jarrod has a long way to go to fill those shoes, but the range, the talent, and the high level of accomplishment across genres, is something to notice.

The reason that I bring this up is for one very specific reason. The first listen of a new record, and in this case a new band, always brings up comparisons. This song sounds a bit like…, or this band is like ……, but with a modern sensibility. And these comparisons, although true in many cases, are getting tired. They are becoming cliches. Now that said, every single time I try to share new bands with people at work, the first thing they ask is, “Who do they sound like?” So, cliche or not, the information is useful, but I am tired of it.

So it was awesome to be able to look at this huge variety of work, and compare Jarrod Compton, to himself… and his commitment to a style, instead of comparing him to other musicians.

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The Ghost Writer Review of Moons, Birds & Monsters : Daydream

Eulogy: The first single from Daydream lays it down like metal. But, even as I say that, nobody on the Interwebs can seem to agree on what “metal” even is.

Note: If I ask folks at work who I know like “metal” what good metal is I get Ghost, Mastodon, Gojilla, Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat and Opeth most often. If I simply put that list on Facebook with #comments, it opens up a can of worms black hole. Metal, is a very odd genre. In fact, while talking to Soundphoria‘s Gavin Donnelly, we were talking about metal almost being seen negatively if it has melody, when Metallica gets melodic, metal heads stop head banging, and how the connection between the music and the vocal seems to be more about tempo. In that way, it is almost like rap. It is hard to hum along to either. Bands like Opeth have taken to weaving a melodic vocal and a death metal style vocal together. Metal, with its lack of mainstream cross genre radio rotation, is an interesting genre to discuss all around, if for nothing else that to start fights! Lol… speaking of expectations.

Eulogy does this, layering Zack’s more melodic vocal with sharp explanations of the deep darkness from Jarrod. But, again, what makes this really cool, is that instead of immediately leaping to the Opeth reference described above, my mind went to all of the other things I was digging into that Jarrod had done. Being able to add, Banshee to the Devil to that list – was kinda cool. Dude! I had no idea you could even do that! Kid Dynamite shows the roots of it. Eulogy, despite sharing a Tool song name, is definitely top 4 on the album. The scales, layers of guitars, and switch ups to acoustic asides and segways are simply everything we want in a hard rock song.

Nightmare: This song is top 3. But there are 4 songs that make the top 3 difficult, and on a 7 original song album, that is pretty solid. The track starts off haunting, with pristine guitar, synthesizer ambiance, and a blended vocal that sets up the story of the song. Don’t let them lie to you. We’ll do that on our own. The second verse takes the listeners there with you. It is a common theme in darker, harder music. Nightmares, dreams, the sandman, the loneliness of the dark, and this second verse takes the song sinister. Not only are we in the nightmare, but your light is fueling it, feeding it. And then the laughter starts and that metal raw, power rock speed that leads to scales and growling from that deep place, makes this a scathing anthem to the darkness of sleep that dare I say it, the sandman… never entered.
Lay That Bottle Down: Top 2. Hands down. And again, band comparisons do leap to mind, but – because of Jarrod Compton’s insane depth and range, I am much more inclined to see these comparisons as Jarrod’s playing with style rather than being inspired by a particular artist. IE, I don’t think the boys set down, and said, let’s come at em Blackstone Cherry.” I do see the artist in Jarrod saying, “I want to take southern rock and bring it some metal.” And this is such a superior comparison to make. I do this all of the time, thinking of a style of poetry, or an era of writing, and trying to bring my take on it. It is not a matter of trying to emulate an artist – it is about being inspired by an age. This song feels a lot like that. It has fantastic hooks, wonderful guitar tone changes, and a really classy use of Jarrod’s demon darkness voice. Here it is less of a voice and more of a sound-effect, adding exclamation points to “two gun shots to the chest”. Very likely my favorite track on the record, but damn Nightmare makes it hard.
Morningstar: Song comes out of waves and bird sound clips. Weaving the pristine clear guitar notes and the acoustic rhythm over them like winds, moonbeams, bird songs…. bringing music into that natural place…. not as an invader…. but a fellow maker of beauty and sound. This song is really beautiful, and the keys coming on at the chorus simply is sonically pleasing. Even when the rock comes hard, it does not seem like an invader. Like some jerk with a Bluetooth speaker in the wilds of Arizona where you went to find peace – no. It comes on like a Hurricane. Natural. Powerful. Godly. But not intrusive. Part. This song again…. makes a top 3 freaking hard. And calling it a top 5, on a 7 song album…. just says…. GO BUY THIS! Saturday.

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You know me, dear readers, and I am not one to shy away from hard questions or controversial subjects. I have interviewed very few metal, hard rock, bands in Phoenix thus far. There have been two reasons for this: one a simple reality, and the other a perception. First, the reality: I live in the southeast corner of Mesa. Apache Junction is closer. Our music scene here in the Valley is varied, and is deep, and it is HUGE. Every band in town will tell you one of their largest obstacles is distance. So, GPS to Joe’s Grotto, and other venues on the North and West side, which seem to cater more to harder music, from my place is 52 minutes from my house. At 2:30 PM on a Tuesday. That is a two hour commitment, just in drive time, often on a night I have to work at 4 o’ clock in the morning. I do it. But it is hard to commit to that in light of the second reason.

Second, the perception. Politics in America right now, are ugly. We are divided in ways we have not been, at least not openly and angrily, for a long time. And the rhetoric, hate, and hostility of those divisions have costs. I am not politically quiet. I have toned it way down, and I do very little of it on social media in comparison to the past. To make a long story short, it was easy to see a divide in terms of acceptance, in terms of politics, and in terms of ideology between myself and the “scene”. Now, let be very clear. I had done very little, next to nothing in that scene, just a few shows at Club Red, here in Mesa.https://keepthegreasysidedown.com/2017/07/19/the-sound-the-fury-the-rebirth-of-heavy-metal/ But I only went to Sturgis once too, and the only thing I had in common with 99.9% of them is that we rode two wheels. I write for myself, and for you, and I like what I like. Truth. A two hour commitment to hang with, and possibly get in Alt Right fights, did not appeal. Not at all.

So I asked Jarrod Compton and Zach O’Meara to prove me wrong.

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Jarrod: To be 100% honest I don’t see that at all. But then again I don’t really ask about or speak on any political views with any one on any scene. Politics separate people, does not bring them together. It’s never been a subject that’s been brought up and I don’t ask. Speaking on your political views in a band setting can bring in negative energy and responses from your fans. I’m here to play and make music not talk about what bill I think should be passed or who should be president or whatever.

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Zach: I can only speak from my own experience. I believe that the local metal scene has been very welcoming to Moons, Birds & Monsters, and they have let us have a chance to show our art. That attitude helped give us the opportunity to put on this show. In the future, it will be up to other bands, including us, to continue to open the door for new artists to test their mettle, so to speak. That will lead to a new renaissance of our scene.
Jarrod: The metal scene has been more accepting of me without even hearing my band or knowing who I am more so than the other pop rock scene I guess. The metal scene is a definite brotherhood of people who just want to support each other and still keep metal alive in the local scene. And that’s something I respect because it’s almost like a dying genre at this point. I worked so fucking hard for years to get in with different crowds, and The Real Fakes is a huge testament to that effort; however, I didn’t experience that kind of hesitation with Moons, Birds & Monsters getting into the metal scene. They loved us from the get go. And now I am playing with what I think are the best metal bands in Phoenix, and I have never even shared the stage with them!

Color me convinced! But, this entire exchange proves an awful lot. It proves something about Perception. It proves something about Judgement. It proves something about being an Asshole. I am beyond excited to head north to the Grotto this Saturday night, and Amigos, I am sorry that it has taken me this long. Serve the Crow with a Cold One!

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Matter of Time: This is the dark horse on the album. These final four are not my top three…. but it really hard to rank them after four. And this is why I find this album so easy to just listen to over and over again. You go from one song that is like, yeah, I like Metal, this song rocks, to a song that adds melody and a bit of thematic history, and you go, yeah, I really dig that, and then they take you to southern rock land, and if that is your jam you are changing your number one, and then they hit you with this just all around fantastic, fun, radio friendly, rockin tune. This is great. It bangs. It rocks. It has “Ohhhh….. silence” pauses. It growls. It purrs. It has driving lics. And does it all while making us wonder if we are really in 2019 or if someone just gave us a taste of something older laced with something totally new.
Bitch: Ok. This is probably not my favorite song. In fact, it is probably at the bottom of my list…. and it fucking rocks! I love it. It is exactly what you want an angry, break up, hard rocking metal song to sound like so you can pound your beer, bang your head, rub shoulders in a dance, and feel better. It is exactly that song. So, if this is the bottom…. what does that freaking say?????

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Black Snow: And again…. this album ends on Hard Rock. It ends on heavy layers of Gretch and Flying V and woven lyrical styles. It is going to make your neck hurt in the morning.

That this album does for me above and beyond everything is showcase a range of talent from some musicians that makes me question……

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Did I really understand what metal was…. or could be? Do you?

Question….. Everything.

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See you at the Grotto Amigos. Keep the Greasy Side Down

Published by Gho5tWriter

Arizona Enthusiast. Writer. Rider. Dreamer.

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