Grown Up Avenger Stuff – Eclectica
The only viable creative ground left to explore in hard rock and metal remains fusion. The trick is to pull it off without ever abandoning the root principles imbuing hard rock with its lasting appeal. Dynamics are essential. The contrast between light and shade, coupled with an intense presentation, are arguably among the most critical qualities essential to any top shelf hard rock. Most entertainment formulas, however, lose their potency with audiences over time and hard rock music is no exception. The cause isn’t any inherent weakness in the formula, but rather overexposure. Record companies and moguls, with all the imagination common to bean counters, drafted one subpar act after another into deadly dull careers pandering to the lowest common denominator. The genre’s remaining hopes for new dawns rest with bands like Grown Up Avenger Stuff and their intelligent mix of styles and their second album, Eclectica, builds on the promise of their debut while reaffirming their core virtues.
“Brother” serves notice that this isn’t a band playing around. Its enigmatic, pseudo-Biblical lyrics are suggestive enough to engage listener’s imaginations, but vocalist Deirdre Kroener fills them with added desperation. Grown Up Avenger Stuff ably color the song with a growing sense of doom, as if some crisis point is coming, “Wasting the Light” signals a clear musical shift from the opener and relies much more on a compositional approach in setting the mood. The ringing guitar passages are a big part of lightening the mood, but lead guitarist John Thomsen knows to dial up the intensity at key points. Both of the opening tracks are excellent studies in rock music dynamics despite their stylistic differences and form a memorable combination beginning the album.
Kroener dominates the spotlight on “Love Please” – the title might lull the unaware into believing this is a love song, but it’s nothing of the sort. Kroener unleashes a primal vocal over a gut wrenching rock arrangement and pushes her voice far harder than anywhere in the earlier songs. A boisterous guitar rave up kicks off “Game” before downshifting into sparser passage laced with chiming guitar lines. Grown Up Avenger Stuff toys with a handful of tempos here and adeptly handles every transition. “You and I” mixes a fluid rhythm section attack with energetic power pop dynamics for one of the album’s most appealing commercial track. “What You Are” is another high octane uptempo shot of power pop. Thomsen’s touch on guitar has hard-charging urgency and the warm tone gives the six string work considerable grit. Eclectica concludes with “Stars”, another mid tempo guitar heavy workout. It’s impressive to hear how much tension Grown Up Avenger Stuff whips up from the deliberate tone in a song clocking in at less than four minutes.
This band has a lot of impressive qualities. They marry a thoroughly modern guitar sound with traditional hard rock fundamentals. Eclectica has tremendous theatricality and masterful musical dynamics, but Deirdre Kroener’s genre-crossing vocal is the album’s wild card. Her wild-eyed, passionate yowl cuts across multiple styles and grounds the songs in the dirt and din of the human heart. Grown Up Avenger Stuff deserves their growing reputation as one of the best new rock bands playing today.
9 out of 10 stars.