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“Singing for our lives, until the water runs dry”
On a hot July night in Chicago in 2009, the idea that would eventually become Rocksposure.com was officially born. Having admired countless emerging rock acts over the years, I was on hand to watch two bands open for Candlebox at the House of Blues that were impressive enough to push the idea I had been kicking around for some time into motion. Fearing that bands as good as these two openers were lost in the crowd with insurmountable challenges to break free, I built Rocksposure.com as a venue to showcase those that deserved a larger stage and audience for their music. Smalltown Sleeper opened the night and ultimately became one of the first acts we Rocksposed when we launched the site. Following them in the lineup was an energetic band from Salt Lake City, Royal Bliss. At the time they had just released the first album in their new deal with Capital Records, were starting to see some mainstream airplay, and seemed to be well on their way to the Rock promised land. Given the energy of their set and the quality of their sound, surely they would be exploding over the FM band any minute making them too far along in the journey to be declared a Rocksposed Artist. But as countless bands have come to find out over the years, the music business can be a fickle beast that likes to turn on you just when you think you’ve got it figured out. It gives you a taste, then slips off into the night taking your dreams of glory with it.
A lot has changed since my first run in with Royal Bliss. The music biz has even less money and is heading in a worse direction based on what they deem to be good music. Rock stations seem to be dying by the day. For Royal Bliss, what had looked to be a path paved in gold disappeared when their deal with Capital fell apart. It was back to step one. But musicians are resilient. Few people on earth will tirelessly work for pennies and deal with as much discomfort as a musician will to achieve their dream. After 15 eventful years together, Royal Bliss is a shining example of sticking it out regardless of the hand they were dealt. “Waiting Out the Storm,” is a testament and backlash about the most recent chapters of that journey.
What I’ve always found to be an oxymoron of the music industry is that the major labels spend millions scouring the planet to find a band that has a unique, trend setting sound only to intervene once they hit the studio and turn it into the same cookie cutter crap that rounds out the rest of their talent lineup. That’s where Royal Bliss found themselves. Fortunately, for the good of rock they weren’t shy about fighting back and you’ll find their counter punch on the self released “Waiting Out the Storm”. “Monster” and “With a Smile” are a declaration by lead singer Neal Middleton that they won’t be pushed around or selling out. Jake Smith makes sure that message is clearly delivered as his drums storm through “Monster” with the shredding guitar of Taylor Richards driving home the point even further on “With a Smile”. Given the seven previous albums under their belt, they know what makes Royal Bliss Royal Bliss. They don’t need a Producer to tell them how to make Royal Bliss into watered down rock ala’ Theory of a Deadman.
While there are definitely some raw, unhealed wounds that find their way out in this album, it’s not all anger and rebellion. In fact, I’d say it’s a hair lighter then their previous effort, but don’t miss the fact that “Waiting Out the Storm” shines as much, if not more, musically as its 2009 predecessor “Life In-Between”. “I Got This” opens the album as a bass filled romp packed with debauchery, drums, and speed. In contrast, “Bleed My Soul” is a soothing, Southern Rock sing along aimed at letting rock cure the ills of day to day life. “Wake Up” urgently pleads for one more fleeting moment as Middleton asks “Can we turn back time?”. Picking the mood up a bit is “Sunburn,” a song where Middleton embraces the transgressions of his youth for helping him become what he is today. “Waiting Out the Storm” doesn’t stay in one realm for long, and based on what I’ve heard of Royal Bliss in the past, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’ll find two versions of “Crazy” on the album, both are marginally different renditions of a fantastic song. “Crazy” talks of the heartaches associated with life on the road; being away from family and friends. “I’ll make it up some day some way some how” - unavoidable collateral damage that’s the by product of chasing a dream. The song exudes Middleton’s pain as you feel the internal struggle between doing what he loves and leaving behind those he loves. While I find the upbeat nature of the intro on the Rock Mix of the song rhythmically appealing, the album version does a far better job capturing the longing and angst of the lyrics. Whether you’re a musician that’s gone for months on end or a salesman spending endless days in every city but your own, “Crazy” will hit home.
“Singing for Our Lives” could easily be the theme song for Rocksposure.com as it handily describes what many of the bands and artists we feature are doing to get by (So get out there and support them!). As I stated earlier, there’s a dedication that you find in a musician that doesn’t show up in most other circles. This song might as well be their collective anthem.
The band’s 15 years of history are evident throughout “Waiting Out the Storm”, their sound is polished and tight. As a firm believer that the drums and bass often subtly separate a good album from a great album, Jake Smith’s drums along with Dwayne Crawford’s bass deliver as they lay down an impenetrable foundation throughout "Waiting Out the Storm". Neal Middleton’s vocals have always impressed me in the way they evolve from track to track. There are times that his smoothness reminds me of Rob Thomas, and then there are moments where he changes into an abrasive tone like Buck Cherry’s Josh Todd or Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale. He’s steady, versatile, and passionate with his delivery (And after being denied a chance on NBC’s ‘The Voice’, he’s proof that reality TV is in the same clueless boat to nowhere with the music industry). Taylor Richards is equally talented on his ax and is a joy to watch live. His demanding riffs and intricate solos help several of the songs on “Waiting Out the Storm” push through to the next level.
Sometimes you find inspiration and sometimes it finds you. Knowing the battles that were fought to maintain the band’s sound and further solidify its integrity over the last few years, “Waiting Out the Storm” could not be more appropriately titled. Given the circumstances, the results blaring through the speakers on this record are nothing short of astounding. It leaves little doubt that it was worth hunkering down and waiting for this storm to pass, you'll be left wondering what part of Royal Bliss' sound some big label schmuck in a suit felt needed changing.
“Life In-Between” was the album you should have owned in 2009, “Waiting Out the Storm” is the first one you need to own in 2012.
Find out more about Royal Bliss at www.RoyalBliss.com
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As the Webmaster and Founder of Rocksposure.com, Chris Brach is always looking for new music from up and coming rock bands. You never know, they could be our next Artist of the Month! If there is something you think he should give a listen to, email him at GetRocked@Rocksposure.com