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Monday, February 5, 2018

Shofar - s/t (2017)

Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin

Shofar’s return to the musical arena with a six song self-titled EP will likely stand, by year’s end, as one of more successful releases in the band’s admittedly slim discography. It marks their first studio work since 2005’s Turn, but the time away hasn’t dulled their musical acumen in any appreciable way and, indeed, it seems lead singer and songwriter Larry Hagner has further matured during his time away from the microphone. The band’s religious/spiritual based message hasn’t been secularized, per se, but rather subsumed into an accessible vehicle that presents it alongside recognizable sounds and avoids any hint of hectoring or sermonizing. This is far, however, from a glorified solo vehicle for Hagner – taken as a whole and on an individual basis alike, the songs on this self-titled EP are clearly the product of a cohesive unit with each member making important contributions to the overall whole.

There’s a nearly progressive, quasi-classical intro kicking off the EP opener “Running” before a wall of pulverizing guitars falls on the listener’s head. The chaos clears for Hagner’s vocals to enter the mix and the nicely melodic qualities of his voice contrast nicely with song’s recurring raucousness. The indie nature of the band’s recording doesn’t hold them back at all; everything has a high level of production polish and an obvious ear for instrumental balance. While the rock histrionics of the opening track afford Hagner a chance to flex his hard rock muscle, we get an opportunity to hear his more classic melodic strains on “Powerman”. There’s some backing vocals sweetening things here at key points and some steady, unspectacular, but wildly successful guitar work. “Shades of Grey” is, like the aforementioned tune, more modulated than the EP opener, but it has a strong alt-rock stride that gives it some added urgency over “Powerman” and there’s a wider vocal presence on this tune that helps the tune come off quite nicely.  

“Hands Down” is more about observing a specific character than any particular message and one of Hagner’s best writing jobs on this collection. It’s a hell of a rock track as well that percolates with real rock power and an appealing “sweep” carrying listeners along. “Countdown” and the finale “The Coming” are much more in keeping with the band’s earlier material, but there’s an intensely human quality to these songs that keeps them tethered to relatable qualities instead of sounding unduly preachy. Shofar’s self-titled EP is a great musical mix that’s equally capable of overwhelming listeners as it is beguiling them. This is a talented band that we need to help redeem challenging times in the world of rock and roll. They bring great music to the table along with first class lyrics that draw you in.

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