Music Review: “Spell,” “Rise Up,” and “We Are Alive,” Swirl

SoCal is the mecca of hard rocking metal bands, such as Cinderella, RATT, L.A. Guns, Van Halen and Skid Row. You can add another name to that list – Swirl, whose latest release is the self-titled Swirl.

Swirl is composed of Alfred Ramirez on vocals; Duane T. Jones, also known as “DT,” on guitar; Shane Carlson on bass; and Brian “Bam Bam” Jones sits in the pocket. Stylistically, Swirl doesn’t fit neatly into any of the prescribed categories of metal. They’re not glam metal, or death metal, or doom metal, or power metal. If pressed to pigeon-hole them, I’m tempted to call them nu-metal because they sound like an amalgamation of Slipknot and AC DC, but they don’t incorporate nu-metal elements, like hip hop or rap into their music. Under the circumstances, plain old “heavy metal” is probably the best description of their sound.

Lyrically, Swirl is unique because they attempt to provide listeners with encouraging, affirmative messages, i.e. standing up for what you believe and not letting the negative Nellies dissuade you by means of saying something is impossible, or you won’t be able to do that. In other words, Swirl eschews the dark side of heavy metal, the doom and gloom, and the artificial tensions.

And in case you interpret that to mean they play Weenie Hut Junior-heavy metal, think again. Swirl is hardcore heavy metal, which probably explains why three of the songs from their latest album were included on the soundtrack of the new horror flick Ditch Day, starring Bill Oberst Jr. You can check out the movie Ditch Day here.

The songs on the soundtrack are “Spell,” “Rise Up,” and “We Are Alive.” “Spell” starts off with some mean bass licks, and then the rest of the band jumps in, kicking it up about ten notches. Like an American muscle car, the melody roars along, riding on the power chords and blistering guitar of DT Jones, who makes his axe pulsate, shake and oscillate. And I like the way Bam Bam sets the beat, hammering his kit like he’s fueled by rage. Like most of the best drummers, he extends the pop of the snare with excellent effect.

Power chords open “Rise Up,” then, as the bass and drums join in, the song takes on a Grand Funk-like flavor that soon ramps up into a potent chorus, followed by a dazzling guitar solo. On “We Are Alive,” Bam Bam pounds out the intro. Bass and guitar enter spewing like flamethrowers, and the song takes off on Ramirez’s chant-like vocals that work well with the song. Vocally, Ramirez resembles Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, which is meant as a compliment. He doesn’t have the range of Robert Plant, but he does an excellent job, giving Swirl’s songs a tight, potent sound.

Of the three songs on the movie’s soundtrack, my favorite is “Spell.” I like the powerful melody and the tantalizing wisp of recollection provided by Ramiez’s vocals, along with the power the band exhibits as a whole.

Swirl is a band to keep an eye on. They’re tight and know how to punch it out, while demonstrating remarkable individual talents. Learn more about the band:

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