Lurking beneath Burlington's jam-funk surface is a surprisingly resilient loud-rock scene. But with the majority of area venues courting college kids, groove-oriented acts seem to crowd out the heavier bands. Local foursome Rise to Fight are yet another quality metal unit, but it remains to be seen what kind of mark they'll make here.
RTF's new full-length CD, Where Dreams Go to Die, is a fitful mix of hardcore and metal. Although there are a few brainiac riffs, the record mostly relies on old-fashioned pummel 'n' crunch. There's nothing wrong with this approach; with so many acts aping prog-metallers such as Mastodon, the streamlined sound is refreshing.
Following a minute-long intro of nature sounds, the disc erupts with "Rock and Roll Franchise," a highly propulsive track full of mighty riffs and throat-rending vocals. Drummer Tony Wyand serves up thundering toms, machine-gun snare fills and the obligatory half-time breakdown. Such percussive flash is the going rate for metalcore timekeepers.
"Unfortunate But True" opens with a discordant guitar figure, which is soon eclipsed by titanic riffing. The lyrics appear to be about transcending mental weakness. "Rather than let our guard down / We have to stand up and fight for ourselves / Without letting this world full of hatred send us face down," vocalist Ryan Lewis howls.
Guitarist/producer Mark Lucia ably cycles through modern metal's many styles, from grinding, Pantera-esque groove to Lamb of God-style crunch. There aren't any guitar solos to speak of, which focuses the attention on the relentless riffs.
"Only Shapes and Colors" is the album's menacing centerpiece. Again, the lyrics stress the importance of mental clarity and perseverance. "Be a voice of your own / Stand firm / Bleed for / Die for / Your own self-dignity," Lewis bellows. If the rock thing doesn't work out, maybe he can give personal-improvement lectures.
The title track closes the disc in fine style, with excellent drum work and furious guitars. On this cut, Lewis really pushes his vocal cords to the extreme, as bassist T.J. Maynard makes his presence felt with choice low-end blasts.
Where Dreams Go to Die doesn't re-invent the aggro-rock wheel, and that's perfectly OK. By sticking to concise arrangements, Rise to Fight avoid the pitfalls that can come with eclecticism. Good for them, and great for headbangers who like their metal straight-up heavy.