Saturday, March 7, 2009

Review: OnceOver - Red Right Returning (2008)

OnceOver [ Website | MySpace ]
Red Right Returning
Caged Bird Records

Oftentimes, success comes only after suffering adversity and, in rare cases, tragedy. The guys of Toledo, Ohio's OnceOver certainly have had their share of setbacks and heartache. The band has dealt with unexpected line-up changes, and while most bands face similar challenges over the course of their existence, most do not have to endure the untimely death of close friends. This loss inspired drummer Steve Dwyer to essentially rewrite much of the songs the band had already prepared for Red Right Returning, their fourth album, as a sort of therapeutic exercise. While OnceOver's core alt-metal sound remains mostly the same as on previous releases, Red Right Returning features an increased use of aggressive vocals to compliment the moody melodies and introspective lyrics.

In addition to his work behind the kit, Steve inherited the vocal duties when OnceOver's previous singer departed. As intricate as the music is, Steve infuses each song with honest emotion - be it anger, anguish, optimism, or a sense of nostalgia. The band had experimented with harsh vocals in the past, but Steve's shouts are much more authentic and effective than those of the previous vocalist. While the lead-off track "The Broken Glass" is fairly formulaic harsh/clean screamo, Steve manages to balance the two vocal styles rather effectively during the course of the album. "Ashes" is an excellent example of the angered vocals sticking mostly to the background, Steve instead channeling a bit of Richard Patrick (Filter) on the majority of the verses. In fact, there are a number of elements on Red Right Returning that invoke comparisons to OnceOver's fellow Ohioans Filter, albeit during the latter outfit's more atmospheric moments. For instance, beginning with "Maze Of Masses" and continuing on nearly every track thereafter, OnceOver incorporates significant sampling and effects. They do it tastefully, for the most part, lending the album an even more pronounced contemplative mood.

All on Red Right Returning is not wistful and harmonious, however. Guitarist Paul Dwyer and Colin De Saint crank up the aggression on "Mugsy" with come chugging riffs and occasional breakdowns. The loping, bottom-tuned riffs on "The Broken Glass" provide an angry start to the album, but Paul and Colin are at their best when constructing melodic leads and subdued rhythms. The aforementioned "Ashes" stands as a solid example of their quieter, yet no less powerful, work. "Against The Wind", with some highly memorable riffs and Steve's alt-rock vocals, has OnceOver sounding like an edgier Boys Like Girls or Fall Out Boy and surely has the potential to be a hit on alternative radio. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the band's admirable cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes". OnceOver doesn't stray much from the original, but they've done a fine job of lending the song an updated and relevant sound.

While it has its harder moments, Red Right Returning is not going to win over many metal fans. Having more in common with Bullet For My Valentine and Taking Back Sunday than the bands that usually appear on this site, OnceOver will nevertheless appeal to heavy music fans that enjoy a bit of melodic reflectivity now and again. Since I enjoyed this release, consider me one of those metalheads.

Track Listing
1The Broken Glass4:24
4Against The Wind4:36
5Maze Of Masses6:47
6Glow Of The Sun5:14
8Sails Still Burning (We'll Meet Again)4:06
9The Undertow4:39
10Blinding Stars5:54
11In Your Eyes5:25
12Trust In Treason5:26
13Sleeptime Masquerade (Our Last Goodbye)12:50
Total Runtime1:12:05

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