CD REVIEW: Shaken - You and Yours
By Cyrus Rhodes - 12/17/2009 - 11:58 AM EST
Album: You and Yours
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock
Sounds Like: Korn, Slayer, Metallica
Technical Grade: 6/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 6/10
Commercial Value: 6/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: Four Laps, The Feeling, Mirror Mirror
Weakness: Screams, Guitar Tonality, Engineering (Recording & Mixing)
5 piece metal band Shaken releases “You and Yours” EP on November 3rd, 2009. This is the bands third release, and they hails from Mississippi. Internet presence for Shaken is below average – rendering not a whole lot in the way of music reviews, interviews, live clips, etc.
The EP logs in at over 33 minutes in length. Shaken kicks things off with “Ventrilofreind” an aggressive intro piece that launches you head first into the a-typical metalcore rock groove. Right from the start the sound is consistent, raw, and in your face. This 10 piece song catalog is very consistent, delivering impressive stops, starts, peaks and valleys. The overall 5 piece sounds tight, playing and composing their parts like a well-oiled machine, dead in the pocket. Track 2 “Four Laps” reveals even more about this 5 piece, with a passionate and melodic vocal delivery, and a few well placed harmonies, and a few interesting guitar touches. I like the vocal timber of James Harrod’s voice. It’s appealing, and pleasing to the ear, and that’s saying a lot within the context of this genera. He also mixes things up with his 2 prong vocal/scream attack. Track 3 “The Feeling” has a nicely executed passionate vocal build, creative right to left guitar pans, and an amazing chorus. From more marketable, thought provoking songs like ”Mirror Mirror” and “Beautiful” to gut wrenching “Chances” and “Again” this CD has everything you would expect fro a Metal CD. Overall this EP packs a powerful punch, that is consistent, and solid. Shaken strikes the perfect balance between sane and insane, with their amazing writing and thought provoking lyrics. The messages are also dark, without coming across as being over the top.
Despite all the positives this EP is not without a few negatives. Harrod has a good voice, we've already established that, but his screams simply don’t cut the mustard. The vocals have 2 modes – regular and cookie monster mode, nothing else. When both vocal modes are placed next to each other or in rapid succession it sounds stupid, lacking creativity - like on “Towers. They also lack fullness, and at times sound dry, crackled, and extremely strained. I’ve heard plenty of metalcore in my day. Sometimes that special microphone and mix can make all the difference in the world here. Overall they lack a serious punch just when you need it the most. They also lack dynamic, are extremely repetitive, and are even painful to listen to. I wish I could hear that amazing voice of Herrods’ belt out a few good scream absent the cookie monster montage. It would be amazing! I also wasn’t blown away by any of the solo guitar work. I think I head 2 solo's showcased on the entire EP, and they sounded like my grandma was playing them. Guitars also lack dynamic, and extremely repetitive, and lack tonal variety. Finally the biggest hit - the engineering. First the mix - renders a few interesting touches, but overall sounds extremely flat, one sided, and lacks serious dynamic. This could be attributed to the recordings themselves. This production would be awesome if it was 1992. Drums also lack serious bottom end, dude I can barely hear the hi-hat! The overall mix lacks the crystal clear hi end touches and, powerful bottom end punishment. All the things you would expect from vintage Metalcore.
Overall this EP clearly shows this band has what it takes performance wise. The timing is spot on, the songs, writing, lyrics, musicianship – all clearly first rate. The worst part about this EP it the engineering aspect i/e (Recording & Mixing, Mastering) Having done a little bit of homework let’s exclude the Mastering Engineer. So somewhere within the (Recording and Mixing) process lies the single point failure, if done properly would no doubt render an amazing EP with 10 stars. It takes skill and engineering savvy to record, and mix a musical production to industry standard these days. I might add its 2009, so the bar is set rather high for independent artists like Shaken. As listeners we take a lot for granted as we listen to songs that are presented to us this way day in and day out. It’s so true that you never notice a lukewarm mix until you hear one. It can be like watching a great movie on a Black & White TV. I’ve seen independent artists out there get this wrong year in and year out, regardless of how good their music is. Some think they can do it all by themselves, saving time, money, whatever. Truth it is the mix is always a make or break for any production, and professional recordings in the hands of a pro mixer will render truly amazing results. Whoever is responsible for this did not set Shaken up for success, or do their music any justice. If this review seems lopsided, it’s merely in sharp contrast to the extremes presented on “You & Yours” If I could say anything to Shaken right now it would be – Surround yourself with professional engineers that can not only record, mix, and master your music properly, but give your fans a world class musical presentation they so rightfully deserve. You guys have to much potential not to!
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