The Central Heart is a one-man band created by Alphonso Ramos, located in Orlando, Florida. He’s been playing music for the last fifteen years and could never find the right people to make a band, so he decided to do this music thing on his own. His 2020 release Nothing But Sound is his third full-length album, and he claims that it’s really hard to describe what the album sounds like. Ramos was heavily influenced by the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails (NIN) growing up. But through his own style of music, he tries to incorporate a more synth driven sound at times, like the bands Health or Chelsea Wolf. At other times, he likes to throw in heavier parts reminiscent of Meshuggah or Gojira. Ramos’ song writing process is one that he describes as “jamming,” where he’ll start with a beat or a melody and keep layering and making new parts until it's a song. Nothing But Sound is a sort of ‘diary’ for Ramos, where he hears his emotions in the songs during very troubled times in his life. He senses that things are turning around now and is willing to share more songs to the world.
The opening chords and synths of “Burning All We See” features a great intro, then transitions into a progressive metal style and then back to the beginning structure. Overall, the speed is one part mellow, one-part heavy, crunchy guitars. I thought Ramos’ sound was clean and enjoyable for those not usually into this type of music and lyrically it’s a great opener. “Push and Pull” begins with a futuristic sounding synth, very sci-fi. The guitars here are much heavier and the rhythm a lot faster, too. Loved the echo effect on his vocals as well. Next is “Home” which starts off with sparse guitar picking, a traditional sounding piano, and an anthem-like rock sound. In a way, the song reminded me a little of Queensrÿche. “Come to Pass” features some terrific drum rumbling and edgy progressive guitar riffs. I really like the words to this one, speaking of how our “memories might stay – but our youth is fading fast.”
The album’s title track “Nothing But Sound” features a thick bass line and cutting guitar chords. Ramos’ words seem to be addressing some kind of denial in his life – “I pushed away to protect my heart” – but now he looks back on his regrets – “The rage and the fury were nothing but sound.” A pretty heavy song overall. “Waiting” offers the listener a short instrumental. Slow in its rhythm and guitars having a cleaner sound, the synths have a greater emphasis here, sounding something like a page from Zeppelin’s “In the Light” or perhaps Pink Floyd. The next song has got an intriguing title – “The Host That I Create” – I don’t know, it just kind of has a nice ring to it. Anyway, this song’s lyrics are perhaps Ramos’ most personal and revealing as he sings about a “host” that he’s created, and where the pain he experiences can be a teacher. Musically, it starts off very ‘80s retro but then turns on a dime with a heavy prog-metal style with a nice mix of rage singing. I really liked the added effect he did to his guitar, too.
Next up is “Retrograde” which starts off in an even more retro-futuristic style, like some ‘80s song for a sci-fi movie, but Ramos pulls it off very well. He mixes this up with what sounds like a rhythmically complicated song on the drums. In my opinion, this was one of his more dynamic and complex numbers. “We Become” offers some pretty dark words – “If I could become someone / I’d be a person that lies / Take advantage of kindness / and throw your pain aside.” By the feeling I got from this song, Ramos was in a very dark place. Musically, I thought this was his most heavy and rage-filled song.
The lyrics to the next song “The Ocean” are a kind of reprise to the first track – “Stride on, search for inner peace / move across these oceans of my disease” and structure- wise, this one seems to have the same approach as “Burning All We See.” Lastly there’s “Dream Now” and it has a mellower approach – ambient in some ways with a clean, contemporary sounding guitar that has just enough edginess to it. The added piano and dreamy, wispy singing style reminded me a little of King’s X.
On the whole, Nothing But Sound feels like it could be a great concept album, which I thought Ramos hinted at as two songs had repeating lyrics and a similar song structure. The songs fit together very well stylistically, and it seems like there is a theme, although it’s not easy to figure that out upon first listen.
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