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Blackjack Symphony – Experime Award winner

Blackjack Symphony
by Kenn Staub at 28 March 2021, 5:19 PM

BLACKJACK SYMPHONY describe themselves as an adrenaline driven, melodic masterpiece of noise and passion; comprised of hard vocals, high pitch screams, loud guitars, thunder bass, and Moog/Hammond backing keys. Hailing from Australia by way of Cleveland, OH, the duo cite an array of influences, including IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, KISS, DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW, AC/DC, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, MÖTLEY CRÜE, RATT, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, PRIMUS, THE WHO, JAMES BROWN, JOAN JETT, MONTROSE, MASKED INTRUDER, and SLY & THE FAMILY STONE. It’s therefore of little surprise that BLACKJACK SYMPHONY is not afraid to experiment. As a result, “Experime¢,” their second album (released mid-March) is an eclectic mix of elements and styles. Rather than being thrown together in a haphazard manner, however, each song is carefully crafted and well played. The attention to detail is even evident in “Experime¢’s” song order, with one number flowing into the next.

Kamikaze,” told from the perspective of an ill-fated pilot, begins with an artfully played, almost classical guitar line. It’s a song in two parts; the first chugging along with a grinding sense of speed and the next slower, more urgent. Bigger sounding than the preceding number, “Addiction” is more of a headbanger, the vocals and overall sound grittier. The track is built upon an excellent riff and the keyboards are used to good effect. “Don’t Tell Me” starts acoustically, almost folkishly, and has a light, glossy pop sheen with metal accents becoming more evident as the song progresses. It doesn’t seem like it should work, sandwiched as it is between two bangers, but “Don’t Tell Me’s” later appearing, heavier inflections lead nicely into “Anybody.”

Though “Anybody” is not a thrash number, it’s played methodically with an almost MEGADETH-like sensibility, the bass and drum propelling the song. “Criminal” is sawing in tone, not played as fast as the preceding. The chorus stands out, as does the guitar work (and not for the first time I might add).

The Western-flavored “Hangman” evidences an intensity that took me for a ride. Its keyboard elements are once again very complementary to the track’s overall feel and each verse is introduced by B. Hen Keevers’s (Matt Keevers’s son) violin playing. “Six Gun Chalet” also evokes the West, but with a different feel than “Hangman;” the guitar work having more of a whiny, twangy quality. The song races along, highlighted by tempo changes during the chorus and a guitar solo contributed by the Keevers’s younger brother, Stuart James.

Experime¢” is an intermixing of metal and lighter, sparer breaks, while “Yeti,” which centered upon the legendary Abominable Snowman, was perhaps the most overtly metal track on the album. “Napoleon,” about the French military and political leader, is a big song; a grandiose banger featuring an acoustic line original lead guitarist Shannon Rivera. The track’s foundational metal riff tends toward the basic, but that’s what makes this MAIDENish history lesson stick (and Matt Keevers’s vocal resemblance to BRUCE DICKINSON doesn’t hurt in this regard either).

I lived in Athens, GA during the late-80s and early-90s, a time when many bands we associate with college radio were coming into their own. BLACKJACK SYMPHONY’s “Experime¢” reminded me of that time; of listening to something fresh played by a band finding themselves and hitting their stride. The 50 minutes I invested in this album was time well spent, leaving me with a satisfied feeling but still wanting more.

Musicianship: 9
Songwriting: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Kamikaze
2. Addiction
3. Don’t Tell Me
4. Anybody
5. Criminal
6. Hangman
7. Six Gun Chalet
8. Experime¢
9. Yeti
10. Napoleon
Matt Keevers – Lead & Vocals, Guitars, Keyboard Effects
Lonny Keevers – Thunder Bass & Growls
Special Guest: Matias Urzua – Drums
Record Label: Independent


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