Raw Musical Strength| Posted June 08, 2017
I have long been of the perhaps controversial opinion that one of the key things a hard rock band needs to be able to do well is produce acoustic versions of their heaviest tracks. The stripped back format is where they have to display sheer songwriting strength, vocal chops and raw emotion. These are elements Decyfer Down shows off beautifully on their new Acoustic EP.
The five track EP features offerings from each of the band's past albums and was originally recorded as a kickstarter perk for the release of last year's The Other Side of Darkness. Fittingly, it begins with a re-imagined "Anchor Me" from that album. This version manages to lose none of its force though presented in acoustic format.
Two of the strongest acoustic renditions come from 2009's breakthrough album Crash. "Fading" and "Crash," which both charted at number 1 when they first hit radio, have become so well-known that the band really stretched themselves to deliver the familiar lyrics in new ways. "Fading" gets a tempo tweak and restructured guitar licks that will have listeners doing a double-take on the eerie, redemptive classic. "Crash" is slowed down and mellowed out to become haunting and borderline contemplative as it shows off how truly versatile TJ Harris's vocals are (and utilizes the full breadth of his range, from falsetto in the intro to low, half-growled moments in the verses).
"Scarecrow," from 2013's album of the same name, takes on a fun southern front porch vibe. Though drawing on a lot more twanging bass than the other tracks, it still fits in well with the collection. The project wraps with "Burn Back the Sun," a true Decyfer Down classic from their debut End of Gray, where it was first sung by original vocalist Caleb Oliver. This acoustic version has already been heard as the closer to The Other Side of Darkness, but its inclusion here still feels fitting, particularly as the rendition is so exceptional. The stripped down format perfectly fits the hollow sense of the lyrics: "burn back the sun, bring back the fire once blazing inside this hollow cage. Burn back the sun, You were the only one to love me with passion's quiet rage."
The Bottom Line: As far as acoustic EPs go, this is easily the best to come from the rock genre in several years. It draws fresh attention to familiar lyrics while demonstrating Decyfer Down's ability to truly own diverse musical contexts.