Review by Oscar Jordan ~ Photos by Kimberly Annette

Over the past ten years Maryland’s Lionize has created a successful blend of heavy rock and reggae within well-crafted compositions. Imagine classic Deep Purple becoming Rastafarians with a predilection for trippy sci-fi imagery and you’d be in the correct musical zip code.

Lionize is Henry Upton on bass, Chris Brooks on keys, and Nate Bergman on vocals and guitar. With a musical vision that began on 2005’s Danger My Dear and reaching a creative peak on 2011’s Superczar And The Vulture; Lionize is a tenacious hard working band with moxy and talent. Framing themselves within an imaginative palette of groove-heavy drumming, rippling rock riffs, and smatterings of eyebrow raising dub reggae, these elements congeal to form a refreshing addition to the rock lexicon.

_H5A8275The band’s listening party for Jetpack Soundtrack at Swinghouse Studios on February 3rd in Hollywood was a festive event. With a bevy of press and friends in attendance, the band revealed themselves to be literally the kind of guys you’d want to have a beer with. Lionize is three affable guys full of forthcoming conversation and salty humor. Having long been endorsed by the band Clutch with drummer Jean-Paul Gaster sharing production credit, it was inevitable that Lionize would join Clutch’s Weathermaker Music label. Machine (Lamb of God, Fall Out Boy) gets the bulk of the production credit taking full advantage of the band’s live chemistry.

From the album’s ‘70s prog-rock B3 ostinato introduction into “Breather,” the musicality is tight and grooves hard. Excellent wah-wah work is offset by thick organ textures and a melodic yet concise bass solo from Upton. Bergman’s He-Man vocal delivery benefits greatly from the band’s clever use of breaks and dynamics, particularly on “Evolve” and “Electric Reckoning.” The title track displays the band’s compositional range; “Lazarus Style” is ferocious and  Sci-fi movie references flow freely. Then you wonder, “What happened to the reggae?” It was the band’s unique juxtaposition of Jon Lord keyboard flourishes and reggae that distinguished it from other bands. Ditching the reggae, Lionize still captivates. “Sea Of Tranquility” finally delivers, but by then we’re at the end of the album.

Jetpack Soundtrack is a heavy-hitting album with muscle and groove. Forgoing their signature reggae influence in favor of a singular stylistic rock approach could make Jetpack Soundtrack more commercially viable, but longtime fans might find a key ingredient missing from a great band.

Jetpack Soundtrack is due out February 18, 2014.




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