Band – Threat Level Midnight
Album / Label – Self-titled / Unsigned
Rating – 7.5 / 10
I remember hearing Threat Level Midnight’s first demos and thinking, “Wow, if this band could put together a well-produced record, they would really sound fantastic!” What I did not realize was that I was listening to a group of high school kids brought together by fate, a fact that still catches me off guard with how popular this band has become in the last two years.
Their story is just as intriguing as their rise in popularity. Rather than a group of friends getting together at school, they all met up at a class taught at the McVey Innovative Learning Center in Hilliard, OH. The six students were the only ones to appear for the class, and were given the task of forming a band by teacher Phil Nagy. With the advent of their first major release, I’d say they’ve earned a passing grade.
The band is, of course, named after the episode of The Office that shares its name, and features Megan Woodruff on vocals, Bryan Ream on guitar, Mark Fullen on Drums, Sarita Gara on keys, Alex Mateos on bass and Anna Wallace on electric violin. You don’t often see the electric violin pop up in rock music these days, and I’m sure the band gets comparisons to Blue October or Yellowcard (two bands from MY high school days) for their heavy dose of the stringed Viper.
As a matter of fact, all six of the musicians make their presence heard on their self-titled EP. The opening track is titled Gullible, a remake of the first song off of their first demo “Goldenface.” It starts with a solid bass riff from Mateos before the rest of the group joins in, led by Woodruff. Her voice reminds me of something between Gillian McGhee (Turnspit) and Sarah Anthony (The Letter Black). Gullible is the perfect song to kick off any record, as it features a perfect blend of intensity and bravado, but knows how to contain itself when needed as well.
The band recently released a video for the second track, Numb. The song touches on abuse and features a whammy of a line from Woodruff in the second verse: “if you close your mouth, will you choke on all your lies? And will the sour taste be your demise?” You can definitely taste the vitriol in her voice as she lashes out at the antagonist in the song, with the pummeling set of drum-fire laid down by Fullen helping to push through. The violin solo by Wallace is a fantastic addition to the end of the track.
ProJack opens with a soft piano accompanying Woodruff, and for the first two and a half minutes is a simple, minimalistic piece featuring mostly just the duo with sprinkles of cymbals and violin weaving throughout. For the final two minutes, Ream and Gara join Woodruff as she repeats “I keep waiting for my life to change”, while the rest of the instruments kick the song to its apex. It is the only song to feature Ream’s vocals, a sharp drop-off from their previous recordings.
Lastly we have Can’t Let Go, the shortest song on the EP at 3:12. Ream picks up where he left off on Numb with another driving set of chords, and Fullen once again shows off his prowess behind the kit as he hammers from end-to-end. Can’t Let Go feels more like a love song and has a more upbeat feel to it than the three previous tracks, and builds to an exciting crescendo in the final moments that serve as a perfect cut to the end of the record. The only downside with Can’t Let Go is that it is indeed the final song. Four good hits and then, poof. I suppose brevity can work to the band’s advantage, as there are no doozies on this EP.
As it stands, you can tell the band carefully tinkered with this record to make sure every instrument got its time to shine. Mateos’ bass thumps just right and works fantastically in tandem with Fullen’s drumming. Ream, only 16 years-old, shows a ton of promise behind the six string, while Gara provides the perfect amount of zest to each song. Wallace stands out on every track without overtaking any of them, and Woodruff’s voice can only continue to get better with time. The amount that her voice has matured from their first demos is tremendous, and with enough seasoning she could reach the heights of some of her rock contemporaries, such as Lzzy Hale and Lacey Sturm.
Many times, the composition of an EP registers around a single or two, just like an LP might, but with less filler. However, some bands seem to catch lightning in a bottle. Such was the case with Alice in Chains’ multi-platinum selling EP “Jar of Flies” or The Strokes’ “The Modern Age”. It seems here that we have a disc with four songs that could each be released independently and be successful. In fact, in checking the numbers, the EP has close to 25k plays on Spotify already, a solid number for a group still in its infancy.
Moreover, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has attended a TLM show who has been disappointed. In fact, the band finished fourth among 54 bands who performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a chance to perform on the final Warped Tour this year. Their next show back in Columbus will be at the Rumba Cafe on June 8 in support of Burning Bright.
Only time will tell whether the group remains together as they go their separate ways to college, so I would personally recommend getting to see them sooner rather than later.
- Can’t Let Go
Threat Level Midnight – Numb