Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin
Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You from alt rock/metal band Black Note Graffiti finds this Ann Arbor outfit, a four piece for this recording but now working as a five piece band, ready and able to deliver an even more blistering set than we heard on their 2013 debut. They bring a two guitar attack to bear that gives them a bulldozer sound along with a rhythm section of Kurt Keller’s drums and Adam Nine’s bass give their attack an added pulverizing quality. Unlike a lot of bands working in this vein, however, there’s often suppleness as well to the band’s musical presentation that reminds listeners what a little bit of just the right flourish can do for a band’s sound. They are a marvelous musical unit and the songwriting is on a steady course of improvement that promises the band’s future is bright and, as of yet, unrealized.
“No Love Lost”, lyrically, shows a harder edge from the band than some of the later songs and the charging guitar based attack doubles down on that mood. It maintains mid-tempo energy throughout, but it’s recorded and produced in such a way that it’s seemingly in listener’s face from the beginning. Ricardo Ortiz has a good vocal presence on all of the songs and shows a rare ability to seamlessly move from artful, considering singing into a full on rock yowl without showing any visible stitching. The superior thought they put into their material compared to their contemporaries comes across most strongly on numbers like the second song “Such Is Art”. It’s certainly a darker shaded lyric, but there’s never any adolescent histrionics involved and, despite their youth, the songwriting never fails to offer an adult point of view. There isn’t as much of straight ahead metal vibe here like there is on the first song, but the band’s two guitar lineup definitely leaves a mark. The album’s fifth song “Bars from the Cages” is one of their better lyrical efforts and close listeners, in the end, can’t help but be impressed by the unified point of view existing on every level of their presentation.
“Shadows” is definitely one of the more intense moments on Volume 2 and Ricardo Ortiz’s vocal is well suited to the moment. The band’s lyrics avoid a lot of the songwriting clichés and pitfalls associated with this style while still discharging a powerful track well in keeping with the style. It seems like the calm before the storm when listeners roll into the next song “Why We Trust” and there’s an extra layer of vulnerability accompanying the musical explosiveness that makes this one of Volume 2’s more impactful moments. “Relapse” is equal to that excellence and serves up an even more dramatic arrangement that shows audiences a number of different faces before allowing their expectations to settle. Black Note Graffiti are wise enough to never overextend listeners’ attention, but they do take the opportunity to flash some of their musical talents on certain songs while maintaining a much stricter aesthetic on the album’s shorter tunes.
The rhythm section syncs up nicely with the guitars on “Natural” and the music has an immediate swagger that carries over into the rest of the song. The sound revisits some of the same hard-nosed assertiveness we hear in the opener with even a little more energy. Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You ends with the song “Send Off” and this tune, obviously designed to be the album’s closer, has the band ends things with both barrels blazing. It’s a relatively raucous finale for an album that surges, wild-eyed and strong, with a variety of youthful passions. There’s something else in this music and these songs as well. It’s the sound of a wise, knowing spirit older than its physical years and gives the songs just a little more bite.