Dripping with ‘90s alt-rock nostalgia, The Kalyns debut EP History lays it on thick with distortion, obligatory guitar solos and belting vocals over tried and true four chord progressions—ultimately managing to sound as familiar as many of the era's bands without sounding too much like any one particular act.
The four-piece band out of Montreal mainly revolves around the dueling virtuosity of singer Fay Lee and guitarist Sylver Charms over the solid backdrop of rhythm guitarist Dick Sherley, bassist “Big” Rick and drummer Simon Rock. All of the instrumentalists have been playing in various projects since the early ‘90s. Charms stands out for his history of metal projects in his native France prior to teaching music in Canada, while Lee touts a recent stint participating in the TV show “The Voice” among her accolades.
While a litany of 90's/grunge parallels are present on the EP, quite a bit of the instrumentation strongly evokes bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson and A Perfect Circle with hints of Brit-Pop acts like Blur scattered throughout. The songs are pretty formulaic in their construction, but they seem to be less about inspired songwriting and more-so a vessel for a series of guitar riffs and solos, as well a chance for Lee to show off her impressive pipes.
These guys capture a ton of live energy in this self-recorded and produced effort. By end of the first track “Momma” Lee is singing-on-the-verge-of-screaming with an energy of you'd expect from a band a band searing though an encore after a killer set. The second track follows roughly the same formula with enough raw energy and clever guitar flourishes to nearly make up for the slightly silly, clichéd and repetitive lyrics—it's not what she's saying as much as how she's delivering it that seems to be the goal.
The album catches its stride with the slow burn, wall of sound, third track, “Crazy.” From the first bars it's nothing but unbridled energy: crashing snares, shoulder-to-shoulder power chords and wailing vocals. The progression is reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Pepper's song, “Scar Tissue,” but interspersed with sharp bursts of fevered guitar strumming you'd expect from a band like Muse. The fourth and fifth songs start slow and build, employing distorted vocals that come clean for choruses, long, wandering guitar solos behind repetitive bridges and many other hallmarks of ‘90s rock ballads.
I give these guys credit for capturing a ton of energy and all clearly being well-experienced musicians. The recording quality is great with layers and harmonies perfectly mixed together to create coherent chunks of music. That said, oftentimes the whole enterprise just seems like an excuse for the myriad of guitar solos and vocal riffs. The album sometimes feels like a lot of clichés and stereotypes—some of the songs sound similar to ones you've heard before, something that's just on the tip of your tongue that you can't nail down.
I also found the album to make for decent background music: good intensity and enough rock sensibilities that you can find yourself nodding along without realizing it. Check it out if you're an alt-rock fan with fond memories of the ‘90', give it a pass if you're more interested in where rock is going, rather than where it's been.
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