ROCK & METAL
Spring Apr-Jun 2021
This is meat-and-potatoes Heavy Metal from Cleveland, Ohio. There's a strong eighties influence to this record. If the kids in the famous short documentary from the mid-eighties 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' grew up and formed a band thirty years later it would sound a lot like this. It takes its cue from the NWOBHM brigade, in particular Iron Maiden at times, with a sound that ignores the plethora of harder Metal sub-genres that have since evolved. It's an enjoyable romp though, as they know how to chisel out a Metal anthem.
This is their second release, and the band has shrunk down to tis two key members, Matt Keevers on vocals and guitar and Lonny Keeves on bass duties, who also provides some backing growls. There are clench-fisted Maiden rockers such as "Kamikaze', which has a cool "eastern promise" instrumental passage, and the swinging 'Hangman', which breaks sweat pleasingly. There are a few songs that are more workman-like, such as "Addicted', 'Anybody', and 'Criminal', but they engage less.
However, when they try their hand at atmospheric, conceptual songs they do their best work, and these are the songs that leave the best impression. 'Napoleon' starts acoustically, then in come military drums and an ominous riff heralding war across Europe. Then you get a potted history of the Emperor of France. It's an expansive song that slowly builds to a rollicking end at Waterloo.
Another of these themed songs is the non-more-Metal chugging 'Yeti' which transports you to the snowy Himalayas whilst conveying a cautionary tale about messing with the abominable snowman. While faintly silly, slightly Spinal Tap, it nevertheless makes for some entertaining Metal. both of these tracks come at the end of the record, and putting one at the front of the album would have made for a stronger first impression.
They even try their hand at a heartbreak ballad too, with 'Don't Tell Me', which mixes an acoustic and electric approach with a hook that sticks; it shows a more restrained side to them than most Metal bands could pull off.
This Cleveland duo might not hold all the aces, but they have a good enough hand to win, especially if you're looking for some traditional, old-school Metal thrills.
POWER PLAY Rock & Metal Magazine
'Experime' is the second album from traditional rockers Blackjack Symphony, who hail from the US of A. With the first track, 'Kamikaze', featuring a frenetic time signature and some strongly ranging vocals that surely Bruce Dickinson himself would be proud of, it is easy to see the NWOBHM influence on these tracks. However, there is a somewhat confusing mish-mash of styles in evidence; going from old school to what sounds potentially like twelve-string fretwork on the almost-power-ballad 'Don't Tell Me', but then back to an ear-jarring hard rock romp on 'Anybody'. The heavily harmonised and chuggy 'Criminal' has a timeless feel to it and the eponymous title track has the power to transport a listener straight back to the 1980s.
Blackjack Symphony are a bit of a family affair; featuring four members of the Keevers' clan, plus some special guests including their ex-guitarist Shannon Rivera. Not to be confused with BlackJacket Symphony (who are a different proposition altogether), you can find this band's eponymously titles first release on streaming sites for an idea of musical progression and direction of travel, although it's worth noting that the first release featured a different line-up.
by Kenn Staub at 28 March 2021, 5:19 PM
BLACKJACK SYMPHONY describe themselves as an adrenaline driven, melodic masterpiece of noise and passion; comprised of hard vocals, high pitch screams, loud guitars, thunder bass, and Moog/Hammond backing keys. Hailing from Australia by way of Cleveland, OH, the duo cite an array of influences, including IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, KISS, DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW, AC/DC, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, MÖTLEY CRÜE, RATT, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, PRIMUS, THE WHO, JAMES BROWN, JOAN JETT, MONTROSE, MASKED INTRUDER, and SLY & THE FAMILY STONE. It’s therefore of little surprise that BLACKJACK SYMPHONY is not afraid to experiment. As a result, “Experime¢,” their second album (released mid-March) is an eclectic mix of elements and styles. Rather than being thrown together in a haphazard manner, however, each song is carefully crafted and well played. The attention to detail is even evident in “Experime¢’s” song order, with one number flowing into the next.
“Kamikaze,” told from the perspective of an ill-fated pilot, begins with an artfully played, almost classical guitar line. It’s a song in two parts; the first chugging along with a grinding sense of speed and the next slower, more urgent. Bigger sounding than the preceding number, “Addiction” is more of a headbanger, the vocals and overall sound grittier. The track is built upon an excellent riff and the keyboards are used to good effect. “Don’t Tell Me” starts acoustically, almost folkishly, and has a light, glossy pop sheen with metal accents becoming more evident as the song progresses. It doesn’t seem like it should work, sandwiched as it is between two bangers, but “Don’t Tell Me’s” later appearing, heavier inflections lead nicely into “Anybody.”
Though “Anybody” is not a thrash number, it’s played methodically with an almost MEGADETH-like sensibility, the bass and drum propelling the song. “Criminal” is sawing in tone, not played as fast as the preceding. The chorus stands out, as does the guitar work (and not for the first time I might add).
The Western-flavored “Hangman” evidences an intensity that took me for a ride. Its keyboard elements are once again very complementary to the track’s overall feel and each verse is introduced by B. Hen Keevers’s (Matt Keevers’s son) violin playing. “Six Gun Chalet” also evokes the West, but with a different feel than “Hangman;” the guitar work having more of a whiny, twangy quality. The song races along, highlighted by tempo changes during the chorus and a guitar solo contributed by the Keevers’s younger brother, Stuart James.
“Experime¢” is an intermixing of metal and lighter, sparer breaks, while “Yeti,” which centered upon the legendary Abominable Snowman, was perhaps the most overtly metal track on the album. “Napoleon,” about the French military and political leader, is a big song; a grandiose banger featuring an acoustic line original lead guitarist Shannon Rivera. The track’s foundational metal riff tends toward the basic, but that’s what makes this MAIDENish history lesson stick (and Matt Keevers’s vocal resemblance to BRUCE DICKINSON doesn’t hurt in this regard either).
I lived in Athens, GA during the late-80s and early-90s, a time when many bands we associate with college radio were coming into their own. BLACKJACK SYMPHONY’s “Experime¢” reminded me of that time; of listening to something fresh played by a band finding themselves and hitting their stride. The 50 minutes I invested in this album was time well spent, leaving me with a satisfied feeling but still wanting more.
Blackjack Symphony – Experime’ – Album Review
Veröffentlicht am 12. März 2021 von Admin
Blackjack Symphony – Experime’
Herkunft: Ohio / USA
Genre: Hard Rock / US Metal
Das blinde Herausfischen eines Albums aus dem schier unerschöpflichen Strom an neuen Veröffentlichungen ist doch immer wieder eine spannende Angelegenheit. Das Infosheet von Blackjack Symphony beinhaltete eigentlich auch keine reißerischen Versprechungen oder imposantes Namedropping , das um Aufmerksamkeit heischt. Trotzdem nahm ich mir das zweite Album der Brüder Keevers vor, denn in der Liste ihrer musikalischen Einflüsse findet sich ein Sammelsurium an Bands, die unterschiedlicher nicht sein könnten.
Da steht ein James Brown zusammen mit The Who, Rainbow und AC/DC neben Judas Priest und Iron Maiden – Mötley Crüe und Ratt neben Avenged Sevenfold und Primus als Inspiration für ihren musikalischen Stil. Ihren eigenen Sound beschreibt das Duo dagegen unspektakulär als Hard Rock. Im WWW finden sich außerdem so gut wie keine weiteren Informationen zur Band. Die erste Hörprobe warf dann auch gleich noch mehr Fragen auf, so dass eine schnelle Einschätzung von Experime’ nicht möglich war, denn was ich zu hören bekam, lag fern meiner Erwartungen. Doch lest selbst:
Hier gibt es mehr als das Versprochene
Die Leadgitarre im Opener Kamikaze wird zunächst noch von einer dröhnenden Hammond Orgel übertönt, bevor der hohe, an frühe Queensryche erinnernde Gesang einsetzt, die Powercords sich allmählich durchsetzen und der Song dadurch einen überraschenden US-Metal-Anstrich bekommt. Das vermittelt auch der rohe, vielleicht etwas unterproduzierte Sound, der nicht mit den aktuellen Hochglanzproduktionen zu vergleichen ist, sondern den typischen US-Metal-Vibe der 1990er Jahre ausstrahlt. Songs wie Addiction und das großartige Anybody punkten mit einem satten Groove und leicht psychotischen Zügen im Gesang von Matt Keevers. Hier fallen mir sofort Bands wie Siren oder Lizzy Borden als Referenz ein.
Die angepriesenen Hardrock Einflüsse kommen aber dann doch noch bei dem balladesken Don’t Tell Me und dem eingängigen Criminal zum Tragen. Die Gesangsharmonien der beiden Songs gehen gut ins Ohr, ohne auch nur ansatzweise cheesy zu sein. Absolut verzichtbar sind in meinen Ohren allerdings die nervenden Violinen- und quäkenden Keyboardeinsätze bei Hangman, die den ansonsten coolen Flow des Songs völlig zerstören und leider auch bei Six Gun Chalet einiges vom guten Ansatz des Tracks kaputt machen.
Der vielleicht beste Song des Jahres!
Doch bevor die Scheibe im Mittelmaß zu versinken droht, legen Matt und Lenny Keevers mit dem Titeltrack Experime’ einen echten Kracher nach. Eine lupenreine US-Metal-Nummer, die selbst auf der letztjährigen sensationellen Comebackscheibe von Hitman ein Highlight gewesen wäre. Leider gibt es bisher keinen Link, um euch diesen Song als Anspieltipp vorzustellen, denn der Track ist ein verdammter Hit und der beste Song, der mir bisher in diesem Jahr unter die Finger gekommen ist! Mehr Leidenschaft und Dramatik kann man nicht in den Gesang und die gefühlvollen Gitarrenharmonien packen.
Auch Yeti schippert wieder in metallischeren Gewässern und groovt im Midtempo und mit sägenden Gitarren auf sehr gutem Niveau. Den Schlusspunkt setzt eine weitere waschechte US-Metal-Hymne. High pitched Screams, aggressives Shouting und jede Menge feiner Leadgitarren zeichnen Napoleon aus. Der Track klingt ebenfalls mehr nach Jag Panzer als nach Deep Purple. Wenn man sich an den rohen Sound erst einmal gewöhnt hat, unterstreicht er sogar diesen Eindruck und stellt kein allzu großes Manko mehr dar.
Hinter Blackjack Symphony verbirgt sich ein ungeschliffener Diamant, der dank der Mehrheit seiner metallischen Songs ein paar echte Überraschungen bereithält. Freunde von melodischem US-Metal sollten sich von Experime’ unbedingt angesprochen fühlen. Von mir gibt es starke 8,5 / 10 für diese Wundertüte.
Blackjack Symphony – Experime’ Review
March 14, 2021
The best music sometimes is hidden behind the worst names. Hell of a music there is in here, but Blackjack Symphony, what the hell does that mean? Well, whatever.
First impression that gets the fan is that vocalist Matt Keevers’ voice has a pretty near tone than Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson’s. In tracks as “Napoleon” the feeling gets more real than ever. Instrumentwise, Blackjack Symphony doesn’t try to sound exactly as their ultrastar peers. At least not that I remember because there’s a while I don’t listen to the Maiden’s new stuff. It’s got too boring for me. But “Experime'” starts pretty damn good with “Kamikaze” with has a good vibe and mood. Great guitar riffing using a technique not so usual, but that has a great effect. Following track “Addiction” has a powerful grip and is a little faster, but keeps the faith and the vibe the band wants to impress in their music. Things change a lot with “Don’t Tell Me,” a ballad like song that delivers some emotion and requires the band to invest in a strong chorus to keep the attention. However, the song has a nice cadence mixing some acoustic fixtures and other textures. In fact, I have to say that one of the most interesting thing about the album is the ability the band has to chance the mood in each song because “Anybody” is completely different from the rest of the songs so far. It has some David Bowie mooding in it with some vaudeville and a kind of comedy of costumes, maybe a kind of parody. I can’t help it to say, but the track sounds as if it were from Bruce Dickinson’s solo album “Balls to Picasso” which some do sound similarly.
In fatc, it is very hard after smome minutes not to compare “Experime'” with Bruce Dickinson’s efforts. I guess more than Iron Maiden’s, if you ask me. I’m obliged to say that to the fans that read my reviews. Of course, it’s not like that, however, it’s no overreaction, just a honest opinion. Go straight ahead to “Hangman” and check this out. But the music is cool and well performed. Blackjack Symphony are talented musicians who knew to add some features of their own as in “Six Gun Chalet” with great and powerful guitar riffings.
ALBUM REVIEW: BLACKJACK SYMPHONY – EXPERIME’
Posted on 21/03/2021by JackAndrews_ROSO
Dust off your best air guitar as BLACKJACK SYMPHONY’s Experime’ blows your socks off!
The new release from BLACKJACK SYMPHONY sounds like it has come straight out of Bruce Dickinson’s studio and it is a lot of fun!
The record kicks off with Kamikaze. Headbanging from the get-go with this classic hard rock track. Nothing too unique about this track but will sound familiar and enjoyable. First impressions were just how similar Matt Keever’s vocals are to IRON MAIDEN’s Bruce Dickinson.
Next up is Addiction, which begins in heavy rock and roll fashion. Slowing the pace slightly with a moodier tone. Addiction’s vocal work has hints of AVENGED SEVENFOLD’s M. Shadows. Two tracks in and Keever is already displaying fantastic vocal range. Another solid track.
The third track, Don’t Tell Me, is the WHITESNAKE-esque ballad. A sad breakup song that will resonate with a lot of people.
Anybody follows and is back to the heavy headbanging guitar riffs. A mediocre song compared to the earlier tracks, until the catchy chorus hits and I couldn’t help but chant along ‘Anybody! (HEAR ME, HEAR ME) Can you see me now? I’m falling’. Deeper vocals are featured in this track, once again proving Keever has a great vocal range.
At the midpoint of the album, Criminal features more of the same. What caught my attention with this track was the awesome guitar solo.
On to Hangman. This had the most intriguing intro on the record up to this point sounding like something from a Western movie. The marching drums continue through the entire track. This is a personal favourite of mine.
Then we have Six Gun Chalet, which begins oddly. The sound of boots walking on a wooden floor can be heard faintly behind a radio playing a passage from the Bible’s Psalm 1. It is interrupted by somebody saying ‘…tell him to shut up and let’s get this over with’ followed by some thumping sounds which reminds me of an old hanging, followed by clapping. After claiming Hangman has the most intriguing intro, I ate my words on the following track! I believe it could be a snippet taken from an old Western movie, possibly a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood classic. After the intro, the organ use really adds to the epic nature before the track breaks out into a catchy rock and roll song!
The title track slows the pace down again. Another ballad with some belting choruses! Then it back to some good ol’ fashioned headbanging with the penultimate track, Yeti. Some interesting vocal work again in this track, especially the eerie sounding ‘Ahhhhhh’s.
The final track, Napoleon, begins in an epic fashion with the sound of explosions leading into a marching drum and what sounds like clock bells. As the title suggests, this is a song about Napoleon Bonaparte and his conquests. ‘All kill Napoleon, all fear Napoleon’is chanted and is a very catchy sequence of lyrics!
BLACKJACK SYMPHONY have made a good record! The influences shine through in certain places on the album which in sections made it feel unoriginal, however, other sections are completely new and even a little bizarre!
Words: Jack Andrews