All of the Unknown – The Drowning Men
Passion… Creativity… Power… Vulnerability… Raw Emotion…
For years, these traits have defined what makes the best rock ‘n roll so special and personal. Unfortunately, today it seems to get more difficult to find, as a steady stream of Techno-driven music acts dominate the rock music landscape (see Foster the People and MGMT). It’s good stuff in its own right, but it’s just not that wonderful rock and roll that grabs you by the ears and screams that you pay attention. Then, along came The Drowning Men.
They’re back with their second full-length album release, All of the Unknown, proving that there’s still a throbbing pulse left in the rock music universe. The album, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label builds on the success of their debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow.
The Drowning Men, out of Oceanside, California are Indie rockers with a sound that reminds a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent. Nate ‘Nato’ Bardeen is the creative vision behind the tracks on All of the Unknown, yet all of the band members contribute, offering a unique powerful sound that builds as the songs move on.
The album kicks off with a strong track that gives you a good idea of what you’re in for. “Lost in a Lullaby,” the first single off of the album is an excellent song about a relationship that couldn’t work out. It begins with a nice keyboard intro from Gabe Messer; then Bardeen jumps in with his mandolin, and finally the remainder of the group kicks in and ratchets it up a notch. It’s a great start and a of hint of things to come, as many of the tunes on the album build to a crescendo as the song progresses. It’s rock and roll with an orchestral flair; music that highlights a fantastic juxtaposition hard to find these days: powerful driving rock and roll, lush melodies and beautiful harmonies.
Producer Billy Mohler has really done a masterful job on this album. Guitarist James Smith and Todd Eisenkerch on bass are played off expertly against the keys from Bardeen and Messer. One hallmark of the band’s music that remains on All of the Unknown is the powerful backbone supplied by drummer Rory Dolan. The raw powerful drums are prevalent and steady throughout and absolutely appreciated in these days where computer generated drums are the norm. “I am the Beggar Man” is a strong rocker that highlights some of Dolan’s best stuff and nicely pulls together the entire band.
Bardeen’s voice is strong and infectious, and his distinctive sound meshes perfectly with the expert musicianship from his band mates. The lyrics remain poignant and introspective as Bardeen reflects and shares captivating life experiences. This is never more prevalent than in the introspective “The Waltz.” The vocals truly shine on “Smile” a hopeful song that features Bardeen’s voice, and on one of the album’s best tracks, “Bored in a Belly,” a swaying roller-coaster ride that finds Bardeen in top form. It’s also a nice showcase for some interesting keys from both Bardeen and Messer.
“A Long, Long Walk” takes us to the other end of the spectrum. It’s a beautiful song with Bardeen reminiscing back to the last night with a long lost love. It’s a great ballad that had me repeatedly flashing back to early George Harrison. Great stuff!
The best cut on the album is “A Fool’s Campaign.” The song features excellent guitar work from Smith, pristine drum work from Dolan and tender, honest vocals from Bardeen. It’s a song that would appeal to many different genres of rock fans and hopefully another cut that will find its way to US radio. I suspect that radio play in today’s “safe” radio landscape may be a challenge to find, but would not be surprised to see these men develop the same kind of passionate following as their record label sponsors, Flogging Molly.
A few of the deeper cuts are mediocre, but there’s a slew of great music on All of the Unknown. For sure, it is not a perfect album, but it’s the perfect tonic for our current rock ‘n roll landscape screaming for passionate, powerful rock music.
Check out the album linked above – it’s only $7.99 on iTunes! If you like reading about rock music, please take a moment to Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook and let us know what you think in the comments below.