Written by Larry Robertson, posted by blog admin
Black Note Graffiti’s second studio album Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You immediately ranks as one of the best modern rock albums released in 2017. They have found a fiery mix of metal riffing and alternative rock that sparks in a way few bands dabbling in this vein have achieved in some time. The first album from the band, 2013’s Volume 1, certainly served notice that a promising guitar driven act was emerging who carried the potential to revitalize, in some way, an increasingly moribund style. They expand upon and realize that promise with this eleven song collection distinguished by the intelligence and focus of its compositions as well as the delightful amount of nuance they manage to work into a style not particularly renowned for its nuance.
“No Love Lost” is tough minded hard rock with metal influences running throughout the length of the tune. Ortiz turns in an often blistering vocal that shows moments, as well, of real nuance. The rhythm section of drummer Kurt Keller and bassist Adam Nine are essential to many of these songs delivering the impact they do, but they are particularly important to the sound of “No Love Lost”. “Such is Art” takes on a stronger metal hue than many of the other songs and Ortiz sinks his vocal teeth into this song. The guitar sound, concentrating on often staccato power chord riffing and rhythm work, could easily risk a cold and sterile sound, but it never does. This is a song that reveals the intelligence driving their work while never sacrificing any of their ability for entertaining a rock audience. When the band lets “False Start” fly, it’s a marvel of pure rock and roll energy with a Ricardo Ortiz vocal that nicely contrasts it. Drummer Kurt Keller really stands out here and guides the band through a handful of tempo changes without ever losing any of his drive or missing the beat.
“Bars from the Cages”, however, aims for more evocative musical effects and achieves them by mingling a melodic flavor into their typical riff heavy approach. The band’s vocal approach here likewise sets it apart from most songs on Volume 2, but they actually take things a step further with the next song. “Shadows” has an extended introduction that’s quite unlike anything else on Volume 2, particularly the percussion, and does a stellar job of setting a mood before the song truly begins. Some of the best guitar work on Volume 2 from Kris Keller and vocalist/second guitarist Ricardo Ortiz turns the heat up even higher on this performance. “Why We Trust” isn’t an especially happy tune, as its distorted and slightly dissonant guitars make clear from the first, but it has enough musically compelling elements that the listener doesn’t feel like it’s a chore to hear it. “Relapse” affords the rhythm section another chance to sign and certainly continues the band’s wont for heavy duty subject matter, but it’s delivered with such exhilarating physicality, even when its mid-tempo, that fans of guitar rock will find it impossible to resist.
“Natural” is one of the album’s best hard rock numbers and even strikes a bit of a classic sound thanks to the way the bass and drums work together. It pairs up nicely with the equally hard hitting, but a little more melodic, “Wicked Ways”. Black Note Graffiti, just recently, added a fifth member with the enlistment of vocalist Gabrielle Bryant and it’s tantalizing to speculate how these songs will sound different with a new singer and what changes that will have on the band’s sound. None are likely to be negative. There’s a sense of destiny surrounding bands with this level of talent and every indication on Volume 2 says it’s potential to be realized in full.