Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Album Review: Otherwise - Sleeping Lions

Success is a word that needs to be constantly redefined. As the digital revolution has shifted how we listen to music, and the number of bands out there has continued to grow in direct proportion to the fragmentation of the genres, success doesn't mean what it used to. Let's take as an example Otherwise, whose album I'm about to talk about. They are a mainstream rock band who have had several previous singles land on the rock charts. You would think that would make them well known, but while the name is familiar, I can't remember if I've ever heard a song of theirs before. Success, eh?

Now on to "Sleeping Lions", an album that is being marked as the biggest moment in Otherwise's career. Mainstream hard rock is a predictable genre, and there have been so many bands that play the same basic four chord patterns that the only way for a band to really make a statement is to have the sharpest of songwriting. There isn't room for inventive new tricks. Otherwise is not interested in reinventing the wheel here, so it all comes down to whether or not they're able to write the kinds of hooks that stand above the fray.

That's where things become a bit tricky to assess. Otherwise has made an album that is heavy without being a de-tuned mess, an album that rocks while actually being quite slower and subdued, an album that is melodic without being catchy. Those are all semi-contradictions, because that's what "Sleeping Lions" feels like. It's an album that has a certain aim, but I'm not sure ever hits the mark.

The biggest issue is that the choruses, while melodic, never stick with you the way they should. They're perfectly fine, and pleasant to listen to, but if you're trying to cut through the glut of bands throwing songs at radio programmers, you need something more memorable than this. Otherwise sounds like a band that would have been perfectly able to score hits and sell a lot of records in the wake of Nickelback's popularity. The problem with that is Nickelback isn't popular anymore, not in that way.

Rock music doesn't break through, and in part that's because the bands that are aimed at the mainstream are all so similar, and all ply in a trade that is too sterile, to sound unique. Otherwise doesn't have an identity outside of their genre, is the way I would put it. I can't point to a single thing about them that no one else can replicate. They sound exactly like what a mainstream rock band should be, and nothing else.

That's fine, and it makes for a solid record that has no disappointments, but it does leave me unexcited at the end of the record. Look, compare this to Danko Jones latest record, who has more buzz, and this is the clear winner. As far as mainstream rock goes, Otherwise is doing it very well here with "Sleeping Lions". There's nothing about the music itself that isn't well-done. Otherwise has made a very good representation of what the genre is in today's climate. I'm just not sure how much longer this horse can be beaten before we're hitting a pile of bones.

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