October 11, 2007

CD Review: Chris Volz - Redemption

I was approached about giving Chris Volz' debut release a listen. I was definitely interested in checking out some new music, but I had to claim ignorance of who Chris Volz was or why I should care. Come to find out, he was the vocal leader of Flaw and five.bolt.main. Okay, I've heard of Flaw, I even own one of their CDs. Once Redemption arrived I gave it a spin and found a compelling, if not great outing for a budding singer/songwriter in the rock world. Generally when I see the singer/songwriter tag it is invariably a style that I don't cotton to well. Not to say I don't like any of it, I just find my tastes angle more towards the hard rock and metal end of the spectrum. This is a thread for another time. Chris Volz has a track record in the rock world and it bleeds through on this debut solo recording.

After taking a listen to Redemption I went back and dug up my Flaw album, it is their debut Through the Eyes. I cannot remember the last time I gave Flaw a spin, and as soon as I did I realized why. It isn't bad, but it isn't all that good either. Flaw's sound is similar to Disturbed when Believe hit, it has that nu-metalish tinge that seemed to infect everything at that time to the point that the music became stale and boring. Needless to say, I never got the second Flaw disk, nor have I heard anything from five.bolt.main. This brings me back to Chris Volz.

Redemption is a good, catchy, and very listenable. It is considerably stronger than that initial Flaw release. Since this is a solo album, Volz did not have to take his music or his lyrics through the committee of a band. This is likely a blessing and a curse. Having more pure control over your songs will allow you to put more of your heart into it and let more of your soul out into the music (not that a band cannot promote heartfelt music, but it is a vastly different dynamic). These songs have that personal feeling. Chris Volz has poured himself into these songs, and his voice proves that. I mentioned that this is a curse as well, and this album proves that as well. When you work solo, you have that many fewer people to tell you when your work may not be up to snuff. Some of the lyrics sound a little silly, more surface than substance. Still, he makes it all work for him.

The songs reside securely within the hard rock realm, gone are the nu-metal flourishes that infected Flaw's sound. Left behind is a more ground rock sound that still has a few touches of heavy groove, most notably during "Your Own Medicine." That song will get your head rocking a bit, and maybe even get you to sing along a little bit. Other songs like "All My Life, "Once Again," and "Dear Life" show an artist that is turning a corner in his life with more personal lyrics. Volz is going out to the edge, not necessarily edgy, but a man who has had some life trials and is ready to purge himself and move forward. Chris Volz is turning the page in his growth as an artist with Redemption. "Got to wash it all away."

The album closes with "Don't Save Me." It is a song that strips away all of the rock star style, relying on piano and drums to support his voice. It is like a cathartic release as the next chapter begins.

This may not be a great album, but the music is catchy and very easy to listen to. The production quality is high. There is a crispness to all of the instruments that still retains a "live" quality to them. It will be interesting to see what Volz has up his sleeve next. Redemption is a good starting point.



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