Twelve Months, Eight Articles: Top Unsigned Artists
It's been a long but short time since January, the first edition of this year's column. Different artists from different genres have been pursued, questioned, and evaluated. Ten of them have made it to the grand stage. The objective of this final instalment is simple: to crown Ultimate-Guitar.com's Unsigned Artist of the Year.
In order to vote for your favourite artist of the assortment, type the name of the artist somewhere in a comment below. The winning artist shall earn bragging rights and, subject to pain-free negotiations, some serious UG-coverage. I'm talking extended coverage that will help to ensure that the winning artist's name is on the tip of our tongues.
The Washington DC band, Power Pirate arrived on Ultimate-Guitar before the band was featured in this column, when the forums helped to propel the band to third place in a national battle of the bands contest. Comprised of Emily Pakulski (Vocals and Guitar), Michael Garate (Keyboards and Production), and Annika Monari (drums), Power Pirate is one of the most youthful bands ever to be featured in this column, with an average age of just sixteen upon the band's first mention. Performing Muse-inspired Electronic Rock, Power Pirate conveys and records lyrical themes and musical arrangements which belie the members' years.
Power Pirate is perhaps the strongest candidate for artist of the year insofar as the band's participation in battle of the bands competitions. With their impressive press kit, technically challenging guitar leads, and signs of tangible progression, Power Pirate deserves to be lauded for the exquisite song construction and for sounding like an authentic rock band. This is proof that professional, serious bands do still exist. Serene but empowering vocals, soaring flanger guitars, techno keyboards, and dynamic drums, Power Pirate is a force to be reckoned with.
Recommended listening: In Mind; Alone; And We're off.
Cormorant, a Progressive-Folk/Black Metal band, formed in 2007 in Novato, California, is perhaps the band which enjoyed the greatest call to arms to be featured in the column. I had quite literally been pestered with emails demanding Cormorant to be featured in the column for at least six months prior to the band's eventual inclusion. Even featuring the band has not quenched the thirst for Cormorant. Indeed, just recently I received a rude message demanding I feature Cormorant. I already had, but whether my critic knew this, or merely wanted the band to be featured again, I cannot say.
Although Cormorant's songs sometimes lack the explosiveness of the more traditional metal band, they more than compensate for this in their intensity. Fronted by the snide, growling Arthur von Nagel (Lead Vocals and Bass Guitar), Cormorant breeze through a vibrant set of songs, tastefully produced and delivered. Lyrically inspired by French Romantic and Symbolist literature, the band's departure from traditional Metal is unrivalled by other contemporary bands. The band's album, Metazoa (2009), produced by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Mr. Bungle, Eyehategod, Melvins, Sleep, Primordial), is a collection of cultured Folk/Black Metal.
Recommended Listening: Ballad of the Beast; The Emigrant's Wake; Salt of the Earth.
I am going to make the controversial decision to feature two bands originally featured in the same article (Cormorant and the Con Men). It's not that March's article didn't feature some promising bands, but I don't feel any of them warrant a place ahead of the Con Men, winners of the 2009 State of Illinois Battle of the Bands. Much like Cormorant, The Con Men are difficult to categorise by name alone, so it's a welcome surprise to find that the band's soulful synthesis of Blues and Jazz is a welcome addition to a column much dominated by Metal-based music.
Captain Jazz's suave, bluesy voice is only supplemented by sumptuous guitar leads, saxophone-led jaunty melodies, and harmonica histrionics. It's nice to hear a band with the capacity to incorporate more than three instruments, but it is even better to hear a band that does it well. The Con Men do it exquisitely, and, with some polishing, this band could garner a deserved following on UG and beyond. The band is by no means a favourite to win the contest, but can surely muster a few votes.
Recommended Listening: Love Me Baby; Just Another Day.
Stop right there. I'm very well aware of the fact that Voodoo Johnson's myspace page lists record label affiliations, but in Voodoo Johnson's long history of being featured in this column, this is the first time that the band shall be discussed as a signed band. I nominate Voodoo Johnson as one of the potential winners of this contest because of the band's unrivalled success. Republished below is the original text of Voodoo Johnson's first ever appearance in this column way back in April 2008.
Fans and the band alike have always revered Iron Maiden's iconic mascot, Eddie. In fact -- as exposed by a magazine interview a year or two ago -- Maiden's guitarists confirmed Eddie's homosexuality, so he is most certainly a developing character. On the other hand, Slash, formerly of Guns N' Roses, now spearheading Velvet Revolver, is known for his adorning of his famous top hat. EnterVoodoo Johnson, with their mascot, who I can only assume is Voodoo Johnson. By the way, he wears a top hat similar to Slash's and has a demonic glint in his eye as his frothing mouth drips a viscous crimson liquid.
Again, Voodoo Johnson oozes professionalism, albeit a sleazy classic rock professionalism. Kev Bayliss, vocalist and principle lyricist of the band has a voice to rival any on the present-day rock scene, while the twin-engine guitar attack of theGethinsseeps class with every riff and lick. Naturally, Voodoo Johnson lives up to the sleazy image of classic rockers, with their tongues firmly in their cheeks; just look at song titles such asBlow Me (Away), for instance. Down the years, we have all witnessed the many weird and wonderful carnations of Eddie, and Iron Maiden has grown with said Mascot. A looming question is whether or not Voodoo Johnson can achieve similar parallels. Rest assured, the band wouldn't be featured here if it didn't at least have the potential. Make sure to listen toThe Art Of Losing in your discovery of Voodoo Johnson, who, by the way, played at Kerrang's live MCN competition on the 19th of April. Despite being situated in the UK, Voodoo Johnson is targeting the USA, and shall be playing in Michigan at the Mount Rock Fest towards the end of July this year. It's going to be a busy year.
At the time, Voodoo Johnson's myspace playcount stood at 69,212. Since then, the band has amassed a tremendous 293,559 plays (at the time of writing), and this year released what is the band's most accomplished album to date, 10,000 Horses. With an extensive UK tour organised for 2011, there is no reason to avoid this brand of Hard Rock music with an edge.
One Ton Tomatoes might have a tongue-in-cheek name, but this is no humorous attempt to vitiate the band's lyrical content. Geraldine is a song in which vocalist, Michael Mazzotta, discusses the tragic suicide of his mother, while An American Family relates to the struggle to maintain one's faith. Mike Mazzotta (Vocals and Guitar), Ej Rosentel (Bass), and Jeremy Anthony (drums) are an American Rock outfit capable of providing a rich listening experience without any reliance upon the life-support machine of over-production and special effects. The minimalist atmosphere of many of the band's repertoire exhibits a band extremely capable in terms of song composition and recording techniques. When I wrote about One Ton Tomatoes in July of this year I severely underestimated the American Rock trio's ability, even comparing the band to Nickelback. That comparison was not without substance, but One Ton Tomatoes seems to be about so much more; and with the band's excellent use of silence, One Ton Tomatoes provide a song writing guide for beginners everywhere. One Ton Tomatoes is a dark horse to split the vote somewhere along the way.
Recommended Listening: Geraldine; Mama; 10th Floor.
Fronted byBrian Spekis, whose voice and guitar are supported byGunnell (guitar),Craig(bass), andVavro (drums), Satin Gum share a love for bands like theReplacements, D Generation andLed Zeppelin. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Satin Gum is a regular fixture in the local scene, with a well-developed live reputation. Playing a passionate, rocky, collection of pop songs, Satin Gum teases the listener with mellifluous vocals and arpeggios to drool over.
The band makes use of artistic friends, such as Ashley Andrykovitch, and therefore can lay claim to having the best album artwork of all the artists to have been featured in this column. Three hula-hooping skeletons later, Satin Gum deserve your support for the band's pure melodious, sumptuous use of irony in songs, and the regular reliance upon the local scene to survive. The band has supported some impressive live acts, but can something propel the band to looking past the old sparring partner of Pennsylvania, or shall the band remain a local fixture?
Recommended Listening: Another Lonely Friday Night; Hip Shape Heartbreak.
Already the winners of Ultimate-Guitar.com's inaugural Unsigned Artist of the Month Contest, Follow the Deceived will hope for a repeat of that feat come the voting this time round. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly which genre Follow the Deceived falls into, but whilst the post-hardcore overtones draw parallels with scream music, it would be an injustice to the musicianship on show to criticise Follow the Deceived as just another metalcore or emo band.
The brainchild of Marc Cruz (Vocals and Rhythm Guitar), Follow the Deceived is a project that very nearly failed to materialise. Then, after facing up to his inner demons, Cruz wrote much of the Hope in Negative Spaces album and the rest, as they say, is history.
Although the band inarguably has an excellent image campaign, including near-unrivalled photos, the band's music on Hope in Negative Spaces could make do with a revamp. Overreliance upon the juxtaposing of singing and screaming can, at times, be tiresome, whilst any serious musicians should always be able to push themselves musically on any future release. Follow the Deceived might not be the finished article at this stage in the band's career, but with the experience of recording this introspective album Follow the Deceived might be ready to unleash a refined product at the next time of asking.
Recommended Listening: Memoirs of a Madman; Make Your Mark; Hope in Negative Spaces.
A Walk with the Wicked is South African, brutally Cannibal Corpse-influenced gore metal, and extremely professional. The band was discussed just last month to much acclaim from UG members. Architects of Sadism, the pinch-harmonic laden album is a boisterous affair.
A Walk with the Wicked makes me proud to be South African. Gotta love this band.
These were just two bits of feedback relayed to me about A Walk with the Wicked, and I must say that this band puts all other bands featured in this article to shame (bar perhaps Party Pirate) in terms of professionalism and the way in which the band is run. In fact, A Walk with the Wicked inspired a whole article all about the importance and process of producing press releases for your band.
A Walk with the Wicked is an easy choice for the inaugural UG Unsigned Artist of the Year award, but making choices sometimes involves choosing difficult options. It's up to you.
Recommended Listening: Ancient Servant; Medical Miscarriage; Already Dead.
Featured on multiple occasions in this column, the three-piece from New York deserves your vote for being one of the most consistently excellent hard rock bands to be releasing music without record label affiliation today.
Exemption, from New York, is a band with whichUltimate-Guitar.com has some familiarity. Featured nearly three years ago, Exemption has released a lot of new material sinceThe Rabbit Hole (reviewed here) in April, 2007. Exemption plays their own stimulating range of progressive rock, influence perhaps byTool, Pantera, andJohnny Cash. There is also quite an accentuated groove to the band's music, and this is even more pronounced on the band's latest release,Public Cemetery Party (October 2010). The latest release is like theMuse that the United States hasn't yet produced. Most notable on songs such asWhite Animal and Mutating Skulls,Exemption has added English suave to their eclectic musical mix that should serve the band well. The industrialised metal-dominated sound ofThe Rabbit Hole has been post-modernised since 2007, and this exciting three-piece should work harder than ever to capitalise on their precocious talents to secure some more serious airtime.Tom,Nick, andLee deserve your support, and I certainly wouldn't be featuring the band for a second time, werePublic Cemetery Party not so scrupulously presented and performed.
The story of Exemption is not a unique one, but is there anything more inspiring than three people playing the music that they love? This is perhaps my favourite band of the lot.
|It's time to vote, and time to bid you, the reader, a joyous Christmas and a very happy New Year. Keep your submissions coming for 2011's Unsigned Artist of the Month column.|