Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin
Black Note Graffiti’s second release Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You illustrates the band’s natural evolution better than anyone could possibly explain it. The band, initially a four piece centering on the vocals of Ricardo Ortiz, has recently added female vocalist Gabrielle Bryant as a fifth member. Her talents, however, are not featured on Volume 2, although listening to the eleven songs on this release provides listeners with a unintentionally fun parlor game in imagining how her voice might further transform or elevate these tunes. Ortiz and the other three originals, however, turn in a barnstormer of a collection and the casual and hardcore music fan alike will be swept away by this Ann Arbor, Michigan based band’s unique confluence of meaty metal riffing and alt rock theatrics and emotion. They’ve discovered a viable vehicle for expressing themselves in a way that sounds fresh in 2017 and sparkles with deceptive originality.
The low-cut, guitar-centric attack of the album’s opener “No Love Lost” is a memorable way to begin the release, but this song sports a power-packed chorus as well that the band plays just right. Ortiz’s vocal balances itself exceptionally well between outright lung muscle and emotional, full-throated phrasing unusual for the genre. Bringing that added dose of technique to a singing style not particularly renowned for finesse makes this a much more invigorating listening experience. There’s a steady, bass-anchored plod bringing “Such is Art” to life and when the song launches in earnest, Black Note Graffiti unveils one of the album’s best numbers. Adam Nine’s bass playing is especially effective. “Castles” clocks in a little less than three minutes and has a grinding, stop start arrangement beginning the song that soon segues into some of the band’s customary staccato riffing. Kris Keller’s blistering lead work adds a fiery exclamation point to the performance. This is another outstanding vocal from Ortiz, as well, that relies much more on art than muscle.
The distorted melancholy beginning “Bars from the Cages” is much more in an alt rock band than the largely metal leanings of the album’s first quarter. Naturally, this means Black Note Graffiti makes more use of their melodic potential and the inclusion of backing vocals is another highlight of the song. “Shadows” is four and a half minutes of the band exploring textures in a particularly exciting way. The song’s first half is artful in a way nothing before it on the album is, but they soon unleash some of their best hard rock fireworks and the mix proves effective. The bass playing, once again, plays an important role with scene setting on the track “Relapse” and Ortiz’s vocals are uniquely tuned into the song’s unique requirements – moving from beguiling work in the first quarter of the track and into some of his best rock singing during the remainder. “Natural” is a much shorter tune than the previous two tracks and the mid-tempo guitar workout rocks with complete conviction and whips up a raucous sound that will likely be an infectiously enjoyable live number. The same guitar-laden moodiness we heard on the earlier “Bars from the Cages” returns on the song “Wicked Ways”. It’s a song with an unique lyrical perspective, a hard as nails yet inventive musical approach, and some surprisingly effective harmony vocals light up much of the song. Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You charts Black Note Graffiti’s development with a forceful, urgent collection sparked with genuine inspiration.