The first sounds that you hear on A Memory Down’s Man Apart album are beeps, four of them to be exact. Pounding drums follow with a cadence of a racing heart. The beat steadily continues beneath the unmistakable sound of a hospital monitor beeping until it flatlines. Crunching guitars and Dalton Akerfeld’s tribal drumbeats and thunderous double bass hit you like a punch in the face. You brace yourself for the growling vocals that are commonplace with music this heavy, but frontman Phil LeBlanc throws you for a loop with his soulful, melodic singing style at the onset of “Despicable” – a song about internal struggle, regret and self-loathing. As the song progresses, LeBlanc uses an occasional primeval growl to capture the raw emotion of the lyrics.
With the adrenaline still coursing through your veins from listening to “Despicable,” A Memory Down takes it down a notch with the dark, moody introduction to “Save Me” reminiscent of Tool’s “Sober.” Dynamic and unpredictable, the song escalates from moody to heavy as lead guitarist, David Leon, kicks it into high gear with guitar riffs and shrills that will remind you of classic 80’s metal. Leon’s shredding, which at times sounds like a cross between Zakk Wylde and George Lynch, adds an interesting dimension to A Memory Down’s unique sound.
The title track on Man Apart showcases nearly every aspect of A Memory Down’s sound – heavy, dark, moody, aggressive and dynamic. It sets the tone for the first single, “Long Black Train” – a melancholy, spellbinding portrayal of an unfulfilled life coming to an abrupt end. This chilling deathbed perspective is the polar opposite of going into the warm, peaceful light. Haunting guitars over a heavy bassline and a pulsating drumbeat create a canvas for LeBlanc to paint a painful deathbed picture that is so vivid you can see it in your mind’s eye…
“It’s here to punch my ticket, carry me home…you see the long black train, it’s here to collect my soul”
The “Long Black Train” trance is quickly shattered by the Maiden-esque galloping, driving rhythm of “Soldier,” a heart-pumping anthem. Man Apart remains heavy and aggressive right up until the melodic piano ending of “Peace Be Yours,” similar to the approach that Faith No More took with “Epic” years ago.
A Memory Down is anything but predictable, so it should come as no surprise that the aggressive, angst-ridden Man Apart concludes with “The Letter,” a slow, country song that quietly fades away.
Man Apart is much more than a collection of hard rock songs. It is a listening experience that will leave you emotionally drained, like weathering a violent storm and appreciating the calm aftermath when it’s over. But unlike a violent storm, it gets better every time you experience it.
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