Black Water Rising Deal In Heavy Riffs and Lyrics
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Brooklyn, NY’s Black Water Rising readily admit that they are not out to reinvent the wheel as far as heavy riff rock is concerned, but instead “want to give it a much needed alignment in these musically stale times.” On Electrified, the band does just that. Not only do they break the type of riff rock that catapulted bands like Soundgarden to success back down to its basics, they manage to inject some much needed relevance into its general lyrical content. While some of the biggest airplay rock bands spent the last year doing covers of the best rock songs of the past couple decades, Black Water Rising crafted one of the best rock albums of original content released over the last few years both musically and lyrically.
Being raised on U2 and Pearl Jam, I have to admit by way of disclaimer that I’m drawn to big rock lyric statements. While BWR doesn’t quite scale the lyrical heights of those two bands, vocalist/guitarist Rob Traynor’s lyrics are strong enough to make BWR more than just amorphous background music. Sadly, heavy riff rock like the type BWR deal in often is regulated to such in this day and age of pop music domination. Also sadly, there are plenty of bands with a very similar sound to that of BWR’s. They are often a dime a dozen. Most of those bands don’t have songs like “World of Frustration” to separate them from the pack both lyrically and musically though. “World of Frustration” is the album’s only acoustic guitar driven track, so it stands out amongst its peers for that reason, but not for that reason alone. “One step forward/and two steps back/always keep you searching/for the things you lack” sings Traynor while advocating to “hold out hope/like an ignorant dope” which is what we all end up doing at one point or another in our lives. The idea here is that getting to the next level is often a world loaded with frustration, but one has to keep moving forward. While this is not a particularly profound exposition, it is one that is powerfully timely.
“The Answer,” another hard driving track on the album boasts some lyrical content that almost borders on trite, but is rescued from devolving into such through Traynor’s powerful and honest delivery. “I don’t need your light/To help me find my way again/Cause I know wrong from right/And I can see the truth and answers/Inside of me.” It almost sounds like something your average 18 year old average to poor talent level poet might scribble on his backpack, but within the context of “The Answer” it sounds more like a declaration of Biblical proportions…and rightly so. That’s the beauty and power of music and songwriting. One cannot separate a song’s lyrics from its musical composition. They form a unique symbiosis of effect that can only really be experienced within the context of one another. You need to go and listen to “The Answer,” and then come back and ponder what I’m getting at here and I think you’ll see why “The Answer” is such a great song, despite, or more accurately, because of its lyrics.
While Electrified is a great album, filled with great riffs and lyrics, often more insightful and inspirational than they might seem topically, it’s not a perfect album. “Payback,” the album’s most interesting and thunderous track suffers from some of the album’s worst lyrics. With a chorus of “Payback is a BITCH, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH” I have to wonder if Traynor simply nodded here. The greatest of artists have such moments. The song will get the crowd up and moving and fist pumping, so there’s that. Again, not everyone is Bono or Eddie Vedder lyrically, and even they have had their poetic misfires.
Fortunately, the album is redeemed with “Millennial Zombies.” The song is NOT another lowbrow swipe at the Millennial Generation. “In a cyberhypnotic transfixion/the zombies often roam/The claim to have all the answers/but they haven’t got the slightest clue/Caught in a net of infinite lies/They believe everything to be true.” I don’t know about you, but to me that describes way more than just Millennials who are attached to their phones. The “Millennial” is more a descriptor of the early age of the new millenium during which the explosion of the smartphone lead to all sorts of horrors along with the spread of information…like our current political predicament here in the United States…
So while Electrified isn’t quite VS or Superunknown, it is a worthy, and welcome, injection of intelligent riff rock that is sorely needed. Electrified was released in 2017, I can’t wait to hear what BWR and Traynor come up with next. Think of the material they have to sift through that developed over the last year alone.