If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my diligent quest to track down great bands and thus great albums, is that paying attention to your intuition is key. I cannot tell you enough about how many albums I’ve stumbled upon by pure chance, like hidden treasure in the most unlikely places. Some albums need frequent, patient replays to help them sink in a little deeper. Growing on you is one thing, but consuming you is another.
When I was asked to check out Fire on Dawson’s second studio album 7 Billion and a Nameless Somebody, I was thrilled that they were a progressive rock band. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the lead singer was an Indian by origin amidst a quartet. Ankur Batra (vocalist/lyricist) may come off as just another lead singer trying hard to stand out in a crowd, but he’s managed to pull it off rather well. The just-as-talented trio that completes the band are Markus Stricker (lead), Martin Sonntag (bass), and Max Siegmund (drums).
The opening track ‘We Are All Vain’ comes forth in a mysterious blend of sounds that bounce off my senses as I wait with bated breath for the vocals to break the melody. When Batra kicks in, I am impressed by his easy vocals, revealing a set of huskiness that is much welcomed (prominent in other tracks). When bass takes over, I tingle, being a sucker for its plundering depth and all that (who isn’t?).
I wasn’t enthralled with tracks 2 and 3 (‘Pseudo Christ’ and ‘The Code’), bringing the initial excitement to an upsetting halt. The tracks don’t offer anything more than straightforward rock, losing their progressive edge in stark comparison to the other tracks. Track 4 sounds like something you’d hear from back in the ‘99s – it’s old-fashioned and lacklustre. Track 3’s spark fizzles out just as soon as it ignites – the lead guitar riffs disappear against the auditory wallpaper during the chorus (bass has taken a backseat, sadly); Batra no doubt has an overall versatile tone range – one minute it’s raw yet pure, then hazy yet grungy.
The excitement returns when track 4 (‘Steal the Show’) comes through the dull haze. Batra takes charge in a way that will leave you swaying ever so slightly to his pleading vocals that strain with immense feeling. Stricker’s laidback riffs are refreshing, while Sonntag brings badass bass at all the right intervals. So far Seigmund isn’t pounding away anything complex, but still playing a vital role in keeping songs glued together.
When track 5 takes its place, (‘Synthetic Part 1’) the album swerves me abruptly. Stricker finally gets his moment in the spotlight using simplistic yet clean and tuneful riffs. His solos aren’t going to leave you breathless, but they nonetheless have something significant to offer. I urge you to play track 10 (‘Synthetic Part 2’) right after; let one bleed into the other to reveal an interesting piece. The lead riffs get better here, with even more melodious bits that catch me smiling in glee. It saddens me when bass doesn’t step up to the plate like it should. Great potential is trapped within Sonntag and listeners will appreciate it if he bursts through.
It caught me off guard when Batra growled (so unlike him, although it sounds pretty good) a little in the track ‘God of the Lost’. The song gets a little bluesy, throwing me off completely; but it does add a nice touch to it – experimental really. Track 6 has nothing to offer except above average riffs that I wish Stricker went a little more ballistic with instead of playing it safe.
And now, addressing what they say as ‘leaving the best for last’, I come to track 9, ‘Willow’. While Stricker tickles my senses with an intense set of riffs that run deep, Batra’s soulful voice tenderly overlaps the lead guitar’s strains; the slightly high-pitched vocals on other tracks weren’t as likeable. While ‘Willow’ might sound ordinary, it’s the lead guitar that totally turns it into a track worth a replay. Wedging into the mix, a mellow song was definitely a smart move; sort of preparing listeners for the end – easing them out so to speak, before closing it beautifully with ‘Synthetic Part 2’.
While the band displays amazing talent, it wouldn’t hurt them to push the boundaries just a wee bit. They’ve got the potential to be great and, in my books, definitely have what it takes to make it big. Collectively, the band would do well to match their way of playing to the intensity of the lyrics, where glimmers of this are evident in brief bits. Nonetheless, the album deserves a worthy listen. I’d suggest wearing a good pair of headphones to appreciate the good parts.