Essentials Volume 6

Reviewing the annual Essentials release is a weighty honor usually reserved for our Editor-In-Chief Doug Driscoll, but since he was busy basting an elf over an open flame, the duty fell to flippant ol' me.

As on past releases, Essentials Volume 6 is a collection of local artists who fit the alternative rock format, combining well-known veterans of past releases with newer acts destined to turn heads. The nineteen artists are represented on a robust 73 minute CD, leaving one puny minute of space which, incidentally, is exactly the length of my own rejected masterpiece "Beware the Octopus"… but I'm not bitter.

The album roars to life with Klubber Lang's "Clean The House", a massive funk fest with killer horns, a dash of rap, and a thick groove designed to shake all booties within earshot. Local favorite Sfumato follows with the soulful dueling vocals, big drums, and great guitar work of "Serial Killer Queen." Taking a breather from the sonic wall-o-funk is "Gypsy" by Sunny Taylor where her emotive voice digs deep for a bluesy feel amidst a howling organ and upbeat guitars. Jettingham returns with "Good Guy", a self-effacing, amicable song with a huge, sing-along chorus representing everything you've come to expect from this band. In a complete 180, Blue Moon Boys lunge for your throat with "When The Devil Comes To Town" which is about as dirty and gritty as rockabilly gets… and some maniacal, intense guitar solos at no extra charge! The first and only rock ballad is the romantic "Lady" by Rosemary Gates, another veteran of the Fort Wayne original music scene. From ballad to alterna-punk is Corporate Circus' "For What It's Worth", three minutes of explosive energy. "Johnny" by Hoochie Mama Getdown, a reformation of The Chronics, is a sparse, percussion free song with layers of acoustic guitars, a stick-in-your-head melody, and crazy electric guitar noodlings-very unique.

Exploding like a cannon shot is the apt ode "Joey Ramone Is Dead" by Pwince, complete with the bare minimum of chords played at a breakneck speed. A slow funk feel, steamy organ, a chunky groove, and a unique raspy vocalist all blend to give The Humanity's "Boneyard" a smoldering sound. Proving once again why they are known as the area's premier party band is "The Wailhounds" with "Smokin' B", a big sounding dance song with great horns (including a sax and trumpet duel) and funky bass. "Breathe" by Matthew Sturm sounds tailor-made for radio with clean vocals, a catchy pop-rock melody, and uplifting guitar riffs certain to move your feet. Downbreed contributes "View From The Side" off their just-released album, a radio listener friendly version of their usual well-played mega-heavy guitar thunder. More alterna-punk-pop is at hand with "Easy", an instantly likeable song with zooming guitars and singable chorus from Buttonhead. Heavier nu-metal guitars and a darker sound pervade "Trie" by Sirface which leads easily to "Ultra Violence" by Chaotica, another wicked song with distorted and effected vocals, manic keyboards, and a driving sinister dance metal edge.

Infectious excitement rules the day in 8th Day's "Diabolic Fish", a funkfest of wah guitars, sax, and violin. Big drums and bigger metal guitars characterize "Climb To The Top" by Chronic Chaos, complete with dual guitar solos and a great hard rock groove. Closing out this most recent Essentials album is "Breakaway" by Pheen, a memorable song with shifting dynamics (a' la Tool), buzzing metal guitars, and a great vocal performance.

Listeners will be impressed by the broad variety of styles contained within, each played with supreme excellence. While not every track will appeal to every listener but there is most surely something for nearly everyone on Essentials Volume 6, yet another astounding display of the diverse musical talents in the Fort Wayne area.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2003.