Germany have of course produced a fair few talented rock musicians and bands over the years and 21 Octayne have been causing more than a little buzz so the imminent release of their debut album 'Into The Open' is a big event in the band's life.
For those who aren't too familiar with them, the band consists of vocalist Hagen Grohe (The Joe Perry Project), guitarist Marco Wriedt (Axxis), bassist Andrew 'The Bullet' Lauer (Paul Gilbert) and Alex Landenburg (Rhapsody) on drums.
After three of the band met for a jam in August 2010, vocalist Grohe was quickly added to the line-up and they set to work doing what they do best, creating music, and as you can probably tell from their experience, their styles and influences are diverse so it was a question of how well it all fitted together and creating an individual sound.
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On first listen the omens look good, well more they sound good but time to delve a little deeper. First one to bludgeon the ears is 'She's Killing Me' and judging by the fact that he can see her down on her knees, it points at killing by kindness so don't panic.
The first thing musically that hits you are the powerful vocals – it shouldn't come as a major surprise considering the guy's track record. Very much a classic rock sound, filled with melodious injections.
The hook is there in spades in the chorus and as an opener it is a good choice as it serves as a brief example of what they can all do individually and together.
Alex Landenburg's drumming is both powerful and delicate, filling in with power when the space is there but never just for the sake of it. Andrew Lauer fits very well with him on the bass forming a solid and inventive rhythm section, Marco Wriedt's guitar paying is sublime, a good foil for the powerful vocals and letting loose with venom for the solo. So far so good...
'Dear Friend' is next and has a very interesting beginning indeed – mournful guitar overlaying the sound of a phone dialling and muffled voice before the main track hits, and hit it does with a vengeance, before going back down for the vocals. This one is very well and cleverly written, voice over guitar for two lines, then full blooded band and back down again to guitar and vocals and it is repeated but not to excess before the chorus arrives with all the venom of a snake who has just taken venom supplements.
Very intriguing and more than a little difficult to pull off as well as they do. This is one of the heavier tracks which may sound a contradiction in terms given the guitar in some sections of the song – it is that well crafted. The drumming stands out on this one but the songwriting is the real winner.
So to 'Turn The World', a very different feel to this one, more moderate in its power, more tuned in with what some sections of the industry call stadium rock. There is a feeling of hope with this one, less of the sombre sentiment than what has gone before. The rhythm section forces this one along, beautiful guitar solo in the middle, vocals laying over the top in perfect harmony and the last section is particularly impressive with a slight change in vocal tone ensuring the track picks up and more than keeps interest. Another sterling piece of writing and playing.
'Don't Turn Away' again goes in a different direction with drums and more than cool base line leading the way and the bass line is superb, filled with more funk than you thought was possible, up and down the board with a bit of slapping thrown in. The rest of the band come in and we are treated to more melodic samplings, the guitar line following the bass funk example.
This is pure genius and if you don't find your body shaking incontrollably then get down to the hospital and get them to xray you to check for a soul. As if all that wasn't enough, the guitar solo that comes in just when you think it has all finished is another high quality piece of six string widdlery.
The intriguingly titled 'My Teddy Bear' is up next and kicks off with menacing guitar and pounding drums, interspersed with more funky and perfectly timed bass fills. As bassists go, Andrew Lauer is up there with the best of them. Melodic chorus and more sections than a government form this is another masterful piece of writing as it settles down to a quieter yet even more menacing part, drums signalling the quite wonderful guitar solo, up and down the fret board with a vengeance, traces of so many guitarists spring to mind but the sound is very much his own.
The title track comes out next, a big change from the previous one with guitar and passion fuelled vocals, very much a ballad but powerfully done. The voice on this one is purity and power personified, showcasing Grohe's ability to tackle this type of song with equal ease as the heavier end of the spectrum. It is easy to see why Gotthard were so interested in him.
More screaming and soulful guitar, bass and drums again providing the impetus as it moves up a gear and as with most that they do there is so much going on with melodies and fills behind the power.
'Me Myself And I' is another one that grabs the attention from the off. Funky, jazzy with some eastern promise. More gorgeous bass and drums with eastern influenced guitar, followed by strong vocals. The melodies coming through in this are multi faceted, traditional classic rock intermingled with the different tones of the influences and the transitions are as smooth as the last pint of Guinness I had. Traces of the likes of Rush grab you but again the sound is their own.
'The Heart (Save Me)' goes back to the more traditional western guitar sounds but far from mundane ones. A very consistent sound of this band is the funky and sometimes even jazzy feel and this starts off in the same vein. Perhaps the likes of the Chilli Peppers are most known for that type of sound but 21 Octayne mix it up a lot more with their other influences and the effect is stunning. The bass is again prominent in this one, drums the perfect sparring partner, great riffs from the six string device and powerful vocals and singalong chorus even has time to make an appearance.
'Your Life' has a more in your face beginning, subtle yet forceful, followed by more great melodies and powerful rhythm. Whilst more in the traditional rock vein, this is anything but straightforward with more transitions between the musical layers. The chorus is particularly ear catching and the between chorus descent into the heavier altogether fits perfectly – it shouldn't but it does.
'I Will Always Be Right There' starts off as you would expect from the title, a soft, emotional expressive guitar and voice. Those who purely love the full force of the band may not like this one but in truth it belongs on the album as it is yet another example of their varied influences and it is done very well.
Never rising above the mellow guitar and vocals for the simple reason it has no need to, it is sure to be live staple, that well timed song to break up the raunch and with the ban on smoking everywhere these days (as well as on just about anything else that is fun) people have to have a use for their cigarette lighters.
'Leave My Head' is a different matter altogether, starting off with all the power they can muster with some more of that funk although this time at the heavier end, but it is there nonetheless and the more you listen to this album the more you get its impact on their sound. This isn't just about heavy though, transitioning between the different styles, the middle section especially leaving you not entirely sure where the track is going to go.
'Come Alive' is the album closer and there is absolutely no danger of not being very much alive by this point. This one is more built around the strong vocals, backing vocals adding a lot of depth to the chorus but this time it is the structure of the verses that stands out above all else, sometimes a little Journeyish in the rise and fall of the voice. Guitar in the middle intriguing and delivering yet again mesmerizingly before the chorus' come in again.
So there you have it. As a debut album it is good, very good and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. All of them are very finely tuned musicians (pun not entirely unintentional) and all do their own thing on the album but the impressive part is it all fits together so well and in this case the sum is equal to the four parts.
The tracks themselves are of such varied structure that there is never a danger of them repeating themselves as is often the case with even the best bands and it is that and I have said it before more than once, the songwriting. Without that, I really don't care what genius wizardry is involved with instruments, it is all for nothing. These guys have the wizardry AND the songwriting.
Do yourselves a favour and check out this album, you will be impressed, very impressed. In fact I am so sure of it that if you aren't I will listen to a Coldplay album and anyone that knows me will know I would prefer a slow and lingering death.