By: Kyle Rutherford
Ohio-based jam outfit The Werks are currently unstoppable. Their first Winter Werk Out back in February was a huge success, and their upcoming eighth edition of their annual summer blow out, The Werk Out Festival, is generating a ton of buzz, with the likes of Gramatik, The Floozies, Emancipator and Dopapod helping to fill out the bill. Add that to constant national touring and their newest full-length release, Magic.
The eight-song album is a sonic masterpiece, channeling the immense creativity within the band. Members started each song on the album independently, then let each member polish each gem through brilliant composition and their improvisational flavor. Each tune is also extremely different from track to track, with genres constantly changing as the album progresses. This is something fairly unique for bands with over ten years of creation under their belt, as many acts tend to stick to a specific sound.
The release begins fairly abruptly with the reggae infused “Wide Awake.” Drummer/vocalist Rob Chafin really takes the reins on this one with his soulful, serene vocals and positive, inspirational lyrics that the band is known for. While Dan Shaw provides an island infused backbone to the tune, Chris Houser’s guitar licks really help to add to the soulful nature of the song. “Wide Awake’s” also provides a nice lyrical takeaway; that “nothing can be better than what love creates.”
The title track “Magic” keeps the soulful feel of the release flowing, with another showing of Chafin’s soulful vocals as well as a more laid back ambience. “Magic” also sounds like much of the popular rock music created between the mid 90s and early 2000s. Hell, if this was created during that time period, it could probably have charted on the Billboard Rock Charts due to it’s phenomenal production value and instrumental power.
A favorite of many band members and fans alike, “Into the Moss” focuses on solely on instrumental flavor. The song seems like a journey itself, with tempo constantly changing, guitar sounds layered over each other, and mood continuously shifting. Houser’s really steals the spotlight on this track. His ever-changing melodies drive the song back and forth from half time, hard rock infused breakdowns, to souring, progressive solos. While his guitar stays unaffected, organic and pure, Shaw mirrors this through simple piano parts rather than spacey synth sounds.
“Slab” was the first studio release that we got from the band before the album was released. Lyrically, Houser’s words are written as somewhat of a ghost story. Instantly, listeners are met with a dreamy intro that consists of Houser’s glorious falsetto. The band then drops into a solid, more southern rock sounding melody. This goes back and forth for the first half of the song and really shows their multidimensional songwriting skills; from the southern rock guitar riffs to the more funk inspired vocals. Halfway through, Chafin picks the tempo up and helps make the tune into an epic rock and roller slammer that we all know too well from The Werks. Listeners also get some some solid shredding from Houser as well.
Halfway through the release, “Moonset” shifts the band towards their more “jamtronica” side. It’s undoubtedly a nice touch to Magic, because followers of the band really haven’t heard a studio release similar since fan favorite “Onslaught” from their 2012 self-titled release. Starting very ominously, you can really tell that this was Shaw’s turn to take the spotlight. He creates brilliant soundscapes beneath Houser’s light riffage, when gradually turns into heavily distorted low end keys complemented by high end, spacey melodies. Halfway through, Chafin brings the tempo up hard and Houser keeps the spacey flavor flowing with incredible riffs. Personally, this was my favorite song from the LP. It’s always been obvious that Shaw and Houser have impeccable chemistry, and “Moonset” really just solidifies the compositional creativity that the two hold together.
“Compares to You” brings back much of the album’s lyrical focus. It also takes you back to the more simple rock n’ roll sound from more old school releases from the band. It’s a fairly simple song, but it’s upbeat, positive, and just overall fun.
Originally premiered on night 1 of the 2015 Werk Out, “Moving On” is another song that is just really fun. Instrumentally, Chafin’s drum beats makes the tune sound like a rockabilly song. Compositionally, it’s the perfect song to be performed live. Houser, Chafin and Shaw constantly trade solos, and during shows, the eight and a half minute venture has been easily stretched to over 13 minutes from these solos. Lyrically, Houser’s words are positive and motivational, telling listeners to, of course, keep moving on past your problems and trials that keep you bogged down.
To end the release, we are greeted with some fantastic funk. “Lights Out” was the new song that new bassist Jake “Baby Hands” Goldberg put his mark on after joining the band, and his solid grooves on “Lights Out” shows why he was the perfect choice for the band. Columbus’s Hoodoo Soul Band provided some incredible horns to the tune to really crank up the song’s funk power. It’s kind of unfortunate that this was really the only more funk fueled song on Magic, but it really helped end the release on a dominant note. It’s going to be great to hear what The Shady Horns add to this one when they join The Werks at some of their upcoming summer festival dates.
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