Northern Kentucky’s Moonbow has been making a name for itself with the heavy, Sabbath-indebted sound exemplified on the group’s impressive 2013 debut, The End of Time, which received glowing reviews from press outlets all over the world. But instead of going down the same path for its second effort, the foursome decided to throw a curveball in the form of an acoustic-based album. The resulting Volto del Demone isn’t your typical “unplugged” Rock record — the musicians adapt incredibly well to the acoustic setting and aren’t simply playing scorching rockers without electric guitars. Yet the group also doesn’t sound like a completely different band, making like a Rock & Roll chameleon by showing an intensity and creativity regardless of the instrumentation.
The eight-song Volto del Demone was released internationally through Cobraside Distribution in late August. This Friday, the band hosts a concert in honor of the new release at Southgate House Revival (111 E. Sixth St., Newport, southgatehouse.com). The show starts at 8:30 p.m. with opener Smoke Healer. Admission is $8.
Volto del Demone’s success and effectiveness is due to the talents of the musicians, particularly those of guitarist David McElfresh. Fiddle player for Hank 3 and guitarist for local Metal favorites Lethal, McElfresh’s dynamic abilities are on full display within the grooves of Volto, as he provides fervent violin, a rock-solid acoustic foundation and some fantastic electric guitar flourishes, like the echoing swells that paint the corners of “Take Me Home” or the heavy riffing and soloing that “Memories Ahead” builds into. Singer Matt Bischoff’s vocals and melodies aren’t just hearty and robust — there’s also often an element of mystique and near-psychedelia within them, bringing to mind the work of John Garcia in Kyuss (Garcia was a special guest on Moonbow’s debut), as well as the harmonic tandem of Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell. Meanwhile, bassist Ryan McAllister and drummer Steve Earle provide a rhythmic foundation that anchors the winding arrangements with a firm yet flexible touch. These songs aren’t just skeletal compositions; they’re fully realized, with a distinct, hypnotic rhythmic sway underlining the proceedings in blood-red Sharpie.
Volto del Demone closes out with the mesmerizing “Face of the Demon,” featuring some of the album’s trippiest moments. The track has a rootsy stomp (which is not the first time a Country-ish influence is heard on the album), laced with McElfresh’s sublime fiddling and guitar work and driven by a haunting melody and layered, swirling vocals that send shivers. Hank 3 guests on the track, providing vocals, various other instruments and some of the “bizarre atmospheric sounds” that make the track so blissfully creepy.
With the power surge of its full-on Rock debut and the imaginative intricacies of Volto del Demone, it should be fascinating to hear where Moonbow goes on its next release.
For more info on Moonbow, visit facebook.com/moonbowrocks.
More Local Notes
• Cincinnati Hip Hop artist Varquis (a
native of Middletown, Ohio) showcases
his skills on the new EP Essence of a King,
which came out in early September and will
be celebrated with a release show Sunday
at Northside Tavern (4163 Hamilton Ave.,
Northside, northsidetav.com). Varquis, a
member of local collective Truth Kamp who
has released several mixtapes over the past
eight years, will perform at the free, 8 p.m.
show (in the back room), joined by
great local artists like Vibe-One (who
produced the EP), Grease, Monty Burns,
DJ Rare Groove and more.
Essence of a
King is available now for streaming or
download at varquis.bandcamp.com.
• One of the area’s best and most consistent
independent labels, Phratry Records, is
celebrating its 11th anniversary Thursday at
Northside Yacht Club (4227 Spring Grove
Ave., Northside, northsideyachtclub.com).
The label will also be celebrating a great new
release at the show, a split 12-inch vinyl EP
featuring three songs apiece from two of the
Phratry roster’s local bands — Smoke
Signals… and Knife the Symphony. It’s
an excellent pairing, as both groups
specialize in intense and progressive Post
Punk. Also on the bill is Cincinnati trio
A.M. Nice, which has its own EP due on
Phratry in December (you can stream/buy it
digitally now at amnice.bandcamp.com)
Chicago’s Nonagon. The show is free and
begins at 9 p.m. (phratryrecords.com)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]