On Tuesday, Jono Bacon released the first album of his Severed Fifth project entitled "Denied By Reign". "Denied by Reign" was composed, performed, recorded, and produced solely by Jono Bacon in his home studio. The Severed Fifth project is interesting, as it is designed to take what Jono has learned in being the community manager for Canonical's Ubuntu Project and apply it to the music industry. The album and artwork are released under a Creative Commons license, and is freely available to download, and remix. That's all fine and good, but if the music doesn't stand up to scrutiny, then what's the point, right? "Denied by Reign" stands up as an excellent recording, and a promising start to what looks like a serious effort to further change the way people think about music distribution.
"Beating Heart" is an aptly titled song to kick off the album. There's a lot of power in this track, along with a more mellowed out vocal. The interesting combination of a sample of Winston Churchill's condemnation of Hitler's attack on Russia further gives this track an interesting texture. The next song, "Take The Test", is one of the more brutally quick songs on the album, and one of my favorites. "Dollar Plague" starts with a riff that sounds like Slaughtered by Pantera, but I think it's either an accident or homage to Dimebag. Whatever the reasoning, "Dollar Plague" definintely ranks up there as the other favorite track on the album. "The Lake" rounds out the heavier section of the album. Everything works in this song: the vocals, the guitars, the drums; everything aligns perfectly.
The latter 4 tracks mellow out compared to the rest of the album. "Edge of Design" features a chorus of "clean vocals" that don't work as well as they could. Sure, the track is still heavy, but the vocals jarr the listener to focus on them. "Kickback" draws some inspiration from the more funk-metal bands like Hatebeed, giving it more of an anthemic feel. Definitely a mosh-pit track to get the crowd slamming into each other.
"War" is the weakest song on the album, mostly because I'm not a fan of ballads, and the vocals need work. Even the heavy parts of the song do little to redeem the song. Sorry, Jono, but this song still remains my least favorite.
"Enslaved by Pain" more than makes up for the shortcomings of "War", and closes out the album with a huge middle finger wagging in the air. Definitely got my head banging.
"Denied by Reign" has only a few faults worth mentioning. The drums on the album were done using an electronic kit, and unfortunately they need help. It's difficult to get acoustic drums to sound good without a professional, so I completely understand why Jono decided to use electronic drums, but this music needs the drums to have more balls than the samples provide. The vocals are also a tad thin, and need some more bass. I'm thinking a different microphone with more bass accentuation would help this out tremendously. Also, the clean vocals didn't work for me at all. This may be due in part to the last of bass in the recording, but they certainly need some help.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk strengths. The guitars and bass sound great on this album, and all of the instruments are tight throughout. Playing this sort of music requires exceptionally tight musicianship, and Jono runs a tight ship throughout "Denied by Reign". Also, the songs have a certain "Ear-worm" quality that will keep them in your head long after the album finishes. I gave this album several listens, and each time I found myself liking the album more and more. It definitely needs a few listens to fully appreciate.
Overall, "Denied By Reign" is an applaudabe and extremely listenable solo effort. Jono took a huge risk with this project, and I think the results speak for themselves. This album definitely kicks ass, and raises the standard for solo metal efforts to a new high. One question I kept asking myself while listening to this album is whether I was enjoying it becaue I'm a fan of Jono's efforts in the Ubuntu and Lugradio communities. After careful consideration and several listens, I can honestly say that I would listen to this album even if I didn't know who the heck Jono Bacon was. "Denied by Reign" is an excellent first effort for Severed Fifth, and I look forward to both the promotion and results of this first album, and the subsequent albums to come. Well done, Jono!
(And the great thing is you don't have to take my word for it. Go ahead and download the album and take it for a spin yourself).