Band/Artist: The Great Fall
Dear bands/artists being reviewed - Remember: I am but one human. My opinion is just that; my opinion. I listen to all music through the filter of 40+ years of pop music consumption. I grew up in the 80’s, for better or worse. I pride myself in appreciating all genres but I LOVE music that is memorable, meaningful and has been created with care. Feel free to extract the sweetest words from this review and brag away. But I hope you’ll consider any criticism or suggestions (what might seem negative) and use it to move your music-making adventure forward to your desired destination.
You can’t stress the importance of professionalism in this industry enough. And these guys embody the word in all of the areas that matter completely. Wouldn’t it be nice if, before someone heard a single note of music coming from you, they already liked you? I WANTED to like the music of “The Great Fall” because I liked the way they interacted with me. Easy way to win hearts, folks.
Songs: structure/flow, lyrics, melody, can’t-put-my-finger-on-it suckage or loveage.
Admittedly, I am a lover of perfectly packaged, 3.5 minute songs with structure, hooks and singability. But it must be genuine with substance, too; layers of ideas that reveal themselves a bit at a time upon each listen (this is coming from someone who likes Usher’s OMG…can’t explain that one). This is exactly why the title song “Define” is my favorite. Without lyric sheets in front of me, it’s difficult to understand much of the lyrics other than the important ones, “Do you know who you are? Can you feel the doubts...something...beneath your skin...something something...into the dark.” “Just hold on to who you are when the world seems dark…” See what I mean? The important ones. It’s a song of strength and power and not giving up.
Can I just interject here - guitar tones are gorgeous. Beautifully recorded and mixed.
Ok, so when I go to the next song, “Love Myself” I’m enjoying the overall flow of the song as I did “Define”. Cool double vocal in the first line, by the way. Wanted to hear more of that! The lead vocal doesn’t quite nail the mini-riff on “lost myself tonight” and “breaking down inside” so that was a bit of a distraction for me - as a vocal person. I’m sure most listeners of this genre wouldn’t care too much about it. My advice to singers is to always know your strengths and weaknesses and sing the sh** out of your song within those boundaries. If you’ve ever heard someone trying to sing Axl Rose who just doesn’t have the range for it, or - more commonly - some poor girl trying to riff the snot out of a Mariah Carey song but can’t pull it off - we immediately dismiss them as someone who is not a good singer. I elaborate too much. Point is, there could be a tweak to the melody so that you nail it or, just a bit of work with a vocal coach and you’d be able to do that riff in your sleep.
The interesting thing about the sequencing of these songs (the order) is that I initially thought they were in order from best to worst (when I say worst, that’s relative. None of the songs are bad songs at all). By the middle of the 3rd track “Broken Ones” and into the last two songs, they could not keep my attention (no, I’m not ADHD - just the queen of multitasking). It took me several listens through to figure out why when listening in sequence, the last few songs were boring the crap out of me. When I listened to the last track “Hopeless” on it’s own, I actually love it and would say it’s my second favorite. So why was I not interested in it at first? Oh. Song after song, I can’t hear the vocal. Message not getting through. Songs start to sound the same. Loses my attention. Segue into the next category.
Audio Quality: recording, mixing, editing, mastering - all things technical from the perspective of an engineer but also an average-Joe music consumer.
I’ll mention again the gorgeous guitar tone. But guys. The vocal is so buried. Not just in terms of the mix but also the arrangement. The arrangement of “Define” allows the vocal to really pop through but mix wise is still buried. I understand the treatment of pop vocals (loudest thing in the mix to an almost disturbing degree) is not what you are going for. But, even in hard rock, or any sub-genre of rock, that vocal needs to be heard. When my hubby listens to Disturbed and other amazing hard rock bands more commonly on his playlist than mine, all I know is the guitars are fat and gorgeous, the drums are thunderous but that vocal still pops through. You’ve nailed the guitars. Drums/bass, bottom end all sound solid. Next level: vocals punch through with clarity.
Production: overall sense of story, creativity, sincerity vs poser, cohesive with brand, commercial viability, vocals/musicianship
Did I mention that I really like these guys? I really, really do. Everything they have done is with purpose. I appreciate so much their musicianship. I hear the effort put into every inch of this EP. Ninety percent of the time I was thinking, man these guys are great musicians! That little 10% was occasional timing issues that surfaced in those crucial 16th note, syncopation, etc. moments. And that’s being fairly nit-picky. This genre requires a level of musicianship that most of us could never attain. If I couldn’t quantize my synths, keyboards and drum programming I’d be a lost cause. So, props guys. Keep working towards precision because you are almost there.*
Being a vocal coach, vocal producer and singer myself, of course I’m always going to be hardest on the singer. But lead vocalist Joey Harper is solid. The treatment, or lack thereof of his vocals in the recordings, however aren’t doing him any favors. He should sound like he is “leading” the band, rather than barely holding his head above guitar-tone water. Without a very distinct sound or character to his voice, he needs some creative production to define his vocal style, which in turn will define the band’s sound. Otherwise, the band - no matter how good the songs are or how amazing the guitar tone - will be dismissed by the masses. The Great Fall needs to find a way to distinguish themselves. My belief is that it starts with vocals.
*Sidenote - I watched some live videos while writing up this review to see how the gang looked and performed on stage. The musicianship was not nearly as tight live, which confirms to me the care they took in the recording. That’s all good, but tighten up your live show if you want to be taken seriously. I also noticed there were some backing vocals in the live show that weren’t on the EP. Many bands rush into the studio, anxious to have product in their hands. I’m not sure if that happened with this EP or not. But, now you guys have a solid EP. Make sure the next recording project happens in it’s due time. Play the songs out. Let them take shape and settle before hitting the studio.
Visual: brand, marketing and presentation, overall appeal, professionalism
Broken record, here; These guys are perfectly professional. Sweet logo, pro band photo, some live shots of each player, “nice” social media presence (meaning they aren’t posting spam all over the place, using foul language or acting like A-Holes - such a turnoff for me). I’m looking forward to seeing a professional video with one of their top songs (I’d say either “Define” or “Hopeless” unless they have better songs in the works.) Only suggestion would be to have a stand alone website and not just one of the band platforms, such as Reverb Nation. It is one level up on the “take-us-seriously” ladder.
The Great Fall is a great band with loads of potential. Finding a way to be heard above the barrage of sound aimed at consumers these days is not just a good idea but the only hope bands have of survival. Be innovative, fearless, imaginative and daring creators. Best of luck to you guys! I’m excited to see and hear what you put out into the Universe in 2017!