I'm not sure how this got in my mailbox and I never heard of the Action Heights label myself before, but this 11-song CD by this new four piece indie rock outfit hailing from Chicago, IL is quite worthy of your attention. They only formed in the spring of 2002 (having also released a six song EP, entitled The Looking Glass War) and this is their debut full length, produced by John Naclerio (My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Armor for Sleep, Steel Train, etc.)
In their bio they quote some raving remarks coming from colleagues in bands like Allister, Taking Back Sunday and The Beautiful Mistake who label this as one of the bands to look out for in 2004. It's no surprise that a lot of these bands' sound is to be found in The Phoenix Rising songs. Personally, I haven't been waiting for the next newcomer in this category, since we're flooded with this emotive guitar sound these last couple years, but this band truly managed to impress me with very lush guitar strokes and quite energetic intermezzo's on top of these emotions and there definitely was not that boring feeling I usually get before the end of full-lengths in this category.
The one thing I really didn't comprehend was the opening instrumental song (with some "elves" singing in the background) that I suppose was intended to build up a laidback atmosphere. I must have been very distracted to even take the trouble listening to the second song (which I luckily did). One of the hardest things for a reviewer is to actually describe what makes a record like this stand out to all the rest, but for me I guess it has everything to do here with the quite amazing intense and very technical guitars that luckily are there in abundance to take over from the calmer parts in the songs. I also think that a lot of these harder bits are more mind sticking than usual in this division. The vocals are not that much different for that matter, although there's nothing bad to tell about them either, you know, the higher pitched vocals that sometimes sound a bit whining but can also burst out in the open. Taking Back Sunday style I'd say.
Not surprisingly I thought the more intense songs were the best: "Lorelei", "Awakening" and "Mid-July" might not sound innovative and cool to some of the diehards out there, and the indie-tag is more at place than the punk-tag for sure, but I really enjoyed these songs a lot. So if you like some Taking Back Sunday and the likes, or maybe prefer your music a bit more spiced up with good guitars you will definitely going to like this.
You know what my biggest worry about bands like this is? They usually only make one good album and then want to evolve with their sound to end up with an utterly boring album. So check it out now, before it's too late. Hehe, probably this will be the next band every correct punker will be bashing on in a few years time. Hope they prove I'm wrong and keep their intensity.