Thursday, April 30, 2015

Album Review: Forever Still - Save Me [EP]

I've mentioned this before, but I think it's worth repeating; rock music needs more female vocalists.  I don't mean bands like Nightwish or Epica, where the singers are classically trained sopranos who sound like angels splashed across a metal backdrop.  I'm talking about straight-up rock singers, the kind who have heart and passion, who make you feel with their voices.  They are few and far between in good bands, which is a shame, because many of the good ones are far more effective than the majority of bland men who get to front these groups.

Forever Still is a band I came across on Twitter, and they have one of these singers.  Maja Sch√łnning is the centerpiece of Forever Still's appeal, sounding not unlike an unknown version of Lzzy Hale.  And yes, that is high praise.

"Save Me" is the band's newest EP, which offers up three tracks of modern hard rock that follows the template laid down by their previous self-released efforts.

We open with "Awake The Fire", which starts with a jumping guitar figure before the rest of the band propels the song with a bouncing energy.  Maja's voice takes control through the short verse, which is biding time before the chorus comes along.  Here, she opens up a bit, and the melody lands a few punches.  It's clear that she's still holding back a bit, which is smart, because it leaves us wanting to hear the rest of what she's capable of, and because this music can be killed by oversinging.  At a taught three minutes, it's a short burst of heavy energy and catchy melodies.  I would have liked another thirty seconds to flesh things out, but it's hard to complain too much about a band that edits themselves so well.

"Breathe In" kicks off with an even heavier riff, tuned down to give the song a darker feeling.  Maja again dominates the song with her vocals, as the deeper guitars give her even more room in the chorus for her voice to shine.  It's a slightly less poppy melody, but still an effective that stands toe to toe with anything I would be hearing on mainstream rock radio right now.  And to top it off, Maja unleashes a harsh vocal to introduce the bridge, which is startlingly good.  If the band decided to move in a dual vocal approach, even though it's not my favorite style, she clearly has the pipes to do it.

The title track closes things out, as the sound of falling rain plays against a clean guitar arpeggio.  The melody is perhaps the most commercial of the bunch, but with the heavy strummed chords underneath the vocals, there's a reason the formula has worked for as long as it has.  The band changes things up with a bit of an unusual drum pattern in the second verse, while Maja's vocals play with her upper register in the bridge.  As the longest song of the three, it feels a bit more fully developed than the others, and uses its extra time to build on its atmosphere.

It's tough to judge music in short doses, but an EP like this can give an insight into whether a band has the skills to make it to the next level.  Listening to "Save Me", it's amazing to realize that this is an unsigned band.  They can write damn good songs, Maja is an amazing singer, and the production bests many of the big name releases I cover.  If this is the appetizer, when they finally get around to releasing a full album, count me among their fans.  Forever Still is a band with unlimited potential.

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