Sound — 8
If you are ready to hear musical textures that go beyond the usual lead guitars and vocals, you will likely want to check out the self-titled debut from Owl. As the brainchild of bassist Chris Wyse (The Cult), Owl bounces between straightforward rock, art rock, punk, and a good number of other genres. That description might make you think Owl couldn't possibly be a cohesive project, but somehow the trio manages to make it work. You can certainly pick up on their influences throughout the course of their record and at times that can be distracting, but the record still provides a unique twist on your usual rock material. The centerpiece of Owl is without a doubt Wyse, who does seem to control the flow of the entire record through a variety of basses and his unique vocal style. In many ways the vocals, which seem to by a hybrid of Axl Rose, Josh Homme, and Scott Weiland, often pull focus because Wyse does have the rock star charisma down pat. Separating the band from being just another groove-driven rock act is what's going on with the overall arrangements, however. You'll have a good indication of this from the beginning moments of the CD, during which time a variety of instrumentation, feedback, and effects come through the speakers. Owl, which is rounded out by guitarist Jason Mezilis and drummer Dan Dinsmore, usually weaves experimental sections into a song rather than letting extravagant solos completely overtake the material. Mom On Drugs represents one of the more extreme examples, thanks to this particular track including a multitude of separate musical sections and tempo changes. At the start it seems to be your average punk tune, but before long you are taken on a completely different ride that goes every which way. The parts don't always seem to fit, but Owl manages to make the transitions work. The band's bio states that the song Ghost in the Starlight recalls the art rock of Pink Floyd, and it does have an epic-type feel to it. However, a better comparison would be Degeneration, which has a similar feel to the vibrant, sonic effects heard on Dark Side of the Moon. On a good deal of the album you can hear somewhat of a Queens of the Stone Age sound, with songs like Alive and Apples working as the best examples. Underneath all the influences is Wyse's one-of-a-kind approach to both the upright and traditional basses, which are often turned up pretty high in the audio mix and it works beautifully. Most of the time the bass takes on almost a guitar-like feel, which does make one wonder the various techniques that Wyse uses throughout the record.
Lyrics — 6
With the music taking the listener on so many twists and turns, the lyrics tend to be quite secondary. That's a good thing because the content isn't necessarily the most unique. The themes tend to sound like plenty of other rock bands throughout the decades with lyrics like, No one here gets out alive; trying to survive the unknown (Alive) or Oh, there you go; And where you go I follow (One Man's Disaster). Thankfully, Wyse's vocal delivery is fascinating enough that you don't always need to know what he's singing about.
Overall Impression — 8
Owl takes the best of a lot of popular bands (GN'R, Pink Floyd, Queens of the Stone Age to name a few), which certainly shouldn't offend your average rock listener. The trio does take things a step up instrumentally speaking, and that becomes evident in the very first moments when the band has a little fun with the effects. Those moments are sprinkled throughout the album, providing it with a bit more depth. You might have to adjust to Wyse's vocal style at first, but the man does have chops. The debut from Owl can be all over the place at times, but the musicianship and free-thinking arrangements indicate this is a band with promise.