WOW! What the hell just happened? Excuse me a moment while I catch my breath, get something to drink and rest my now scrambled brain. Every once in a while (and it is becoming more and more rare) an album comes along that totally shakes the earth’s core leaving a path of melted faces and blown minds. March 21st, 2016 = face melted and mind blown. I am truly worried about the seismic activity that will be recorded when on April 22nd, As The Crow Flies, the debut album from A Rebel Few sees it’s official release. May I suggest stocking up on water and other life sustaining necessities just in case the fault line in the Cambridge area opens up and swallows southern Ontario. This album is harnessing just that kind of power.
Before I jump into the review portion, let me set the stage. About 5 years ago I was introduced to a band then called West Memphis Suicide. They had recently released their independent CD entitled Resurrecting the Ghost and I fell hard for their mix of razor sharp guitars, pounding rhythms and killer melodic hooks. I reached out and interviewed the guys for one of my first interview pieces here at Decibel Geek (No Bullshit Rock & Roll). Not only did their album rock but they invited me in as an official “D.I.R.T. Bag” and we have remained in touch. Great band but more importantly, great people.
Listeners of the show and readers at the website have already been well introduced. West Memphis Suicide has been featured as a “Fresh Blood” artist and have had their music played on a number of Decibel Geek Episodes. Their cover of KISS‘s “War Machine” being one of my favourite and heaviest KISS covers ever. But alas, that is all in the past, speaking with Chris Raposo (guitar/vocals) he shed some light on the moniker switch that has re-christened the band A Rebel Few. “After our umpteenth member change as West Memphis Suicide, we became more determined than ever to keep this train rolling. So when we added longtime supporter and good friend Adam (Shortreed on bass) we decided that instead of naming a new member to the band, we would give everyone an even foothold and start from scratch as an original line up”. A fresh name with a fresh focus and a familiar mission.
Time to work on a new album, enter Sterling Winfield. Wait, what?!? How the hell does an independent small town Canadian band get to work with Texas-based former Pantera producer? Well, I needed to find out a little more about this turn of events, so I reached out to Mr. Winfield with three questions that he was kind enough to answer for me.
Decibel Geek: How did you first find out about these Canadian boys and how did you become involved?
Sterling: I usually do a little of what I like to call Facebook Fishin’ once or twice a year. I send a post out to local level, unsigned bands and see if there’s anything I’m digging on or if any bands are looking to up their game. I sent out this particular post sometime in summer of 2013. A mutual friend of ours named John Patterson from the band Before The Damned responded by posting their profile onto that thread. I checked out the video they had up for their song “Bitter Man” and loved it. I knew there was something there. I contacted a person that I was collaborating with at the time and he agreed. We tried to get something rolling there, but it soon fell apart because of scheduling and creative differences. I picked up where he left off and the rest is history.
Decibel Geek: You have an incredible resume working with some of the biggest names in rock and thrash. Was A Rebel Few your first Canadian band? Either way, what was it like working both in Canada and having these guys invade your space down in Texas?
Sterling: In person and in the studio, yes. By proxy, no. A long while back I recorded a solo of Dimebag‘s for Nickleback‘s cover of “Saturday Night’s Alright” for the Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle-Motion Picture Soundtrack. It also featured Kid Rock. It was a lot of fun. Just me, Dime and a few beers and shots and we knocked it out in one evening. They sent us the tracks in Pro Tools and we just recorded it at Pantera‘s studio Chasin’ Jason down here in Texas.
I also pulled together some of Dime‘s old and unused solo tracks for the Nickleback guys about a month after Dime was killed for their song “Side of a Bullet”. Still to this day almost eleven years later, that has to have been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
Going to Canada to record rhythm tracks with the band at Geoff Breen‘s Capstone Music was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. It was very challenging. We basically built a studio up around the band with a hodge-podge of pieced together begged and borrowed gear at Geoff‘s music school there in Burlington, Ontario. We recorded at night when there were no students or staff there. It was an absolute blast. It was just a great vibe. Then when it was time for vocals, they all loaded up and came down to my place and we finished everything out in my house. They just stayed with me and my family during this time to keep costs down. I do not do this for any other band but these guys. They’re more than just a project with me. We have become family over the course of this album. We fed them bar-b-que and Mexican food until I thought they were gonna pop, LOL….
It is a difficult way to spread it out and do it. It is very time-consuming. But we didn’t have a label screaming at us to get it done either. We definitely had time on our side and we used every single second of it. Good times for sure.
Decibel Geek: I loved their last album (as West Memphis Suicide), but this debut as A Rebel Few is completely on another level. What would you like to leave as a quote to share with anyone not already familiar with this new band?
Sterling: I’ve told a couple of other press outlets this and I’m telling you too: “These guys are the real deal. No Smoke. No mirrors. Just bad ass, working man’s rock and roll. If you want all that auto-tuned, over produced, watered down bullshit then be my guest. You won’t have to strain your small brain to think about anything. But if you truly want to hear something that relates to you and yours and makes you think and feel something, give these guys a try. You won’t be sorry!”
Finally, the moment arrived when I finally could sink my teeth into this new release that I have been eagerly anticipating. Just me, my headphones and an album entitled As The Crow Flies. Like a sudden shot to the head, the opening riff to “Born Again” provided me exactly what I had longed to hear. Intact were those razor sharp riffs, the pounding rhythms and the melodic hooks that I love from this band but there was something else. There was a precision, intensity and focus that elevated this to a whole new level of metallic fun! I was blown away and it was just a taste of what was to come.
“Rebel Few”, the second song opens with a tasty little bass riff before it rips into an all out metal assault on all senses. Thunderous background vocals and a guitar solo so tasty it sticks to your teeth and could pull out your fillings. This is indeed where I belong! Track three, “Empires Fall” provides another baseball bat hit to the mid-section.
“Dying Breed” opens with a left vs. right duelling guitar riff before kicking into a full throttle rocker that should include a warning to wear a helmet before continuing down this metal road. This song reminded me of the first time I heard Priest‘s “Freewheel Burning”, fast, pumping and fun as all hell. Here I was four songs in and I was tired! I actually took a break to quickly thank the band for the eargasms I was experiencing.
Headphones back on, seatbelt fastened and “Said and Done” was up next. If I was expecting a break in intensity, it wasn’t found here, this song was killer and my neck muscles were getting a workout. A Sabbath-esque guitar breakdown had me smiling ear to ear, this album was quickly becoming my favourite album of 2016 thus far. Amusingly enough, about three weeks back I made a statement on my Facebook page claiming that it would take one very special album to knock Last In Line‘s Heavy Crown album off of my top spot for best album of 2016. Well, three weeks later and I must apologize to Vivian Campbell and Vinny Appice because As The Crow Flies now sits firmly atop of that list.
Song six, “Serious”, opens with some slow and moody guitar work, I thought I had found the album’s ballad but in less than a minute I was proven wrong, dead wrong and my head was again banging to a solid Rebel Few groove. Look I could continue on describing the remaining three songs “Who Knows”, “Bitter Man” and “Pure Revolution” with descriptive adjectives and comparisons to other great songs from other great bands but here is the thing, there simply is not a weak song on this bitch! Every song knocked my dick in the dirt, As The Crow Flies is a freaking masterpiece of epic proportions.
I have always loved “albums” as complete listening experiences and I have many albums in my collection that I thoroughly enjoy cover to cover. Often songs that others may consider “filler” I enjoy as part of the experience but rarely does an album come along that truly earns the distinction of the “perfect album”. An album where every single song delivers the goods and rocks me to the core. I wish to thank A Rebel Few and Mr. Sterling Winfield for creating what is for my taste, one of those perfect albums. This album will proudly blast through my speakers for decades to come.
So here’s the deal, a Decibel Geek album review is simply one writer’s opinion. If you have read this far, I think you understand that I LOVE THIS RECORD. So my challenge to all 3000 plus Decibel Geek Facebook faithful is to seek out this record on April 22nd and give it a solid listen. If it’s not for you, fair enough but if you dig it then BUY IT and let me know you did. I would personally like to know that the Decibel Geeks are supporting these hard working independent bands.
Tell you what, I love this record so much, here is what I am going to do. I have been invited to attend the CD release concert/party on April 16th. At the party, I will be picking up a brand new A Rebel Few T-shirt that I will have autographed by the band. For everyone that goes out and purchases As The Crow Flies and proves it to me via the Decibel Geek Facebook page, I will enter your name into a draw for the autographed shirt. Contest will close July 22nd, 2016. That’s three months from the day of official release.
BUY: A Rebel Few – As the Crow Flies (Coming Soon)