by Tom Spanks.
When Zach departed from Rage Against The Machine it left a big void in the rap-rock world. Sure Rage teamed up with Chris Cornell but that didn’t last very long and the music’s political focus was lost without the “activist” de la Rocha raging against everything.
RCA is hoping to help fill that void with Headstrong a new hardhitting rap rock outfit out of Ontario. Don’t get me wrong Headstrong isn’t another Rage rip off but they are similar in the fact that they convey some strong political messages by using heavy rap-rock as their vehicle to get their voices heard.
On most of the songs Headstrong is heavy on the rap, so if you aren’t a hip-hop fan, this won’t do anything for you but if you like the mix of rap with heavy rock then you have a killer new CD to add to your collection. Some of the other more experimental songs may appeal to heavy rock fans even if they aren’t into rap-rock since the raps come across more hard-core punk then street rap. Unlike most rap-rock groups that stick to a pretty consistent style that grows old real quick, Headstrong mix things up pretty well. In other words, it’s not all downtuned guitars and screaming raps!
Like a lot of rap-rock bands, these guys also mix the heavy raps with melodic vocals which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, fortunately for Headstrong they do it well. The rap-rock genre has gotten a little stale with a ton of less than excellent bands being brought out by major labels but Headstrong stand above the pack with their mix of incendiary guitar leads, emotionally charged vocals and dynamic rhythm section.
The music is melodic but still pretty raw, so it doesn’t suffer the overproduced fate of groups like Linkin Park who loose any street credentials they may have with their “too slick and mainstream” delivery. Headstrong is everything that Linkin Park should be but doesn’t have the balls to try to be. In a lot of ways the music itself comes across as a heavier take on Finger Eleven with rapping vocals, especially with a song like “Adriana” which relies far more on the melodic side of the vocal treatment, the song is positively addictive and really shows all of Headstrong’s musical strengths. Hopefully, RCA will be smart and pick that song as a future single.
Don’t expect a lot of drop-tuned guitars; the band explores classic rock riffing, modern rock style and even some punk. A song like “Do What You Feel Like” is a perfect example, they take the classic rock guitar riffs mix it with an alternating punk and modern rock vocal treatment and the result is an amazing mishmash of sonic delight that is nice and heavy but still catchy.
Lyrically they alternate their strong political views with more contemporary messages so the politics isn’t as in your face and over the top as Rage sometimes got. You might wholeheartedly disagree with Headstrong’s views but unlike Rage you can listen to the politically charged songs and not feel like you’re being inundated with propaganda.
I know we’re had a lot of less than great new bands released from major record labels over the past couple of years, but Headstrong go a long way towards making amends for that. I love rap but don’t care for many rap-rock bands, they all seem too limited and come across as trying to rip off Rage. Headstrong is one of the few rap-rock bands that I can listen to, they have a powerful sound, a great mix of music and their style comes across as anything but stale and contrived.
The release of this CD is a definite highpoint of the year, and may help to give the rap-rock movement some much-needed standards to measure itself by. It’s about time, someone got it right and Headstrong succeed where so many have tried and failed.
contributed to this review.
Spanks is a freelance music critic (under his real name) and contributing
writer for the iconoFAN Network .
courtesy RCA and Headstrong
antiGUY contributed to this review.
Tom Spanks is a freelance music critic (under his real name) and contributing writer for the iconoFAN Network .
courtesy RCA and Headstrong