Venrez - Children of the Drones
Within a heartbeat, Hang The Predator has you cloaked in fog, walking through dimly lit city streets on a bitterly cold winter’s night. You keep glancing over your shoulder, positive you heard echoic footsteps behind you, even a shadow creeping eerily out of sight every now and then - or so your terrified brain convinces you so. It makes your skin crawl at the mere thought of it.
A reverb-soaked, grinding riff trickles like tar from their darkness enshrouded city streets sound. The death march drums slow but menacing, layered guitars icing the song with a prickling touch while Steven Berez’s vocals pierce into your head as he spits his lines. And the chorus; full of syncopated, bend heavy guitar work and melodic singing hammers home their Alice In Chains similarities like a stake into the heart of a villainous vampire. The musicality at play here is deadly, infectious and highly impressive; it’s a song which rears its ugly head and hisses at you, desperate for the attention.
The LA hard rock quartet certainly ramped up excitement for their debut release well with their lead single. The issue here is following it up with an album full of that same consistency which is something that they attempt to do so with a differing degree of accuracy throughout. While there are some great rock n’ roll songs on this record – Children of the Drones, Devil’s Due and Deep points in case here – a fair few tracks wash over you without really making any imprint of lasting impression. At points Berez’s vocals are too reverb heavy, the psychedelic mist he coats them in failing to give some songs the desired punch and indeed, his droning vocals play out a love/hate relationship with you across the record. On Children of the Drones for instance, there is a sense of immediacy in the up tempo track’s musical foundations and so when Berez wails over the top it works very effectively. But on the slower, softer moments like the moody Sacred Blood they lack that killer bite, even bordering on irritation.
It all comes across as a band still trying to find their feet, perhaps still a little unsure of their own identity. Devil’s Due is lively, a driving rhythm pushing it along nicely with some guitar nuances to find enjoyment in. The chorus that acts as its centre of gravity is alluring and memorable but, comparatively, Salvation and Mist of Mercy which follow do little in standing out from the pack.
When they get it right, they do so very well – Hang The Predator is a song that deserves heavy rotation, but when they don’t too many songs come and go without touching you at all.
20th Reason is one such track which does jump out at you. A jolty, natural harmonic punctuated riff leads the foray and Berez’s vocals are on point here. It’s sassy, it makes you move and it shows just what this band is capable of. The effects heavy, psycdelic tinges work hard to accentuate the song’s character rather than masking it in a haze which blurs its details like on Reflection. The mix there is poor, but here is a band that could win themselves a lot of fans.
It is, 20th Reason aside, a predominantly top-heavy release, the three standout tracks are the opening trio. Children of the Drones is a patchy album but it is merely the opening chapter for the band. There’s plenty of room to improve. It isn’t consistent, but it’s a record which plants their sonic seed into our spheres. Over time, let’s hope that seed is well nurtured and nourished, allowed to grow, expand and ultimately blossom. The other possibility is that this embryo is stagnant.
Words: Phil Weller