Artist – The Rapid Jags
Album / Label – Awakening / Unsigned
Rating – 7/10
Rock and Roll has been split up and divided is to so many subgenres that its hard to keep track of everything. You got your metal, your punk rock, your hardcore and all the other cores, your stoner rock, I could go on for pages and pages listing all these different iterations of the original formula. Because of this multitude of niches, regular old “Rock ‘N Rock” is hard to come by these days.
That’s where The Rapid Jags come in. Hailing from Heath, Ohio, the trio’s debut album, Awakening is full of the influence of different genres, but at its core, it is a straight up and down rock and roll record. And it’s a damn good one, at that. Sometimes it pays to go back to the roots.
The album kicks off with a chugging riff at the beginning of Dark Matter to set the tone. The vocals come in slightly distorted, sounding distant to add the thinnest sense of foreboding. The song makes you want to grit your teeth and nod your head along to it. The first of many guitar solos is brief, but for me, refreshing. So many of the metalcore or punk bands I listen to have almost completely abandoned the guitar solo, and it is wonderful to hear it on this album.
One More Round is a bit more jaunty than its predecessor, trading the chugs for a bouncing, bluesy guitar lick to underpin the song, but it keeps the slight distortion on the vocals. Upon my first listen to the album, I didn’t think I was a huge fan of the vocals, but each subsequent listen they have grown on me more and more.
At first this was my least favorite vocal performance on the album. After multiple takes, though, I think they really elevate the song and compliment that blues influences. There’s just a little bit of venom in them, a little bit of grit, especially on this track. It’s not overpowering, and its easy to miss, but now that I’ve picked up on it, I really enjoy it.
New Day (An Unexpected Journey) ditches the distortion on the vocals for the first time on the album, and the guitars are much more clean and light. It sounds like a song that would be fun to listen to on a beach. The whole song sounds more airy than the rest of the album, but not to the point it seems out of place. It’s just another example of the band taking inspiration from more than one place and turning it into something their own.
Lock Me Up starts with a guitar lick that plays under the entire song, only modulating from the same pattern maybe twice for about three minutes. It is consistent, and it is just so fun. The slight distortion on the vocals is back, but less echoey that before. The song breaks off this track near the end for a coda that feels like it is building toward something, before a couple smooth chords and a gentle fade out. The deviation catches you off guard and leads into another change up.
The beginning of Lady of the Night sounds like it might be the first respite from the high energy of the first half of the record. The dreamy slide guitar lulls the listener in before that slick main riff comes in, then the drums kick back up, and the band keeps the tempo right up.
There are flashes of a heavier song after the choruses, with some quick power chords and pounding bass drum, then the solo breathes even more life into this heavier side. The song moves back down into the electric blues territory until the last chorus, where the vocalist lets loose, bringing back that minor growl right before the song ends. I say this a lot about artists that flirt with the heavier side of rock, but I really wish they had given just one song that really leans into that feeling.
On the Way Back dials back the blues influence for a more straight forward rock song. Its probably the most somber of the album, and it sounds a hint darker than the rest as well. It’s the kind of song that plays in a movie while the main character walks through dark alleys in the rain with their hood up. It’s got a tinge of grunge to it, a little bit of headbanging.
Going straight from the most melancholy song on the album to Homesick, arguably the most upbeat sounding song, feels like whiplash. But, as with most songs I think are happy at first, a brief dive into the lyrics tell a different story. It’s a song full of anxiety and fear of the unknown, all wrapped in a beachy vibe. That still doesn’t make it any less of a bop, though. The guitar work in particular is great on this track. I am also obligated to mention the key change, which still kicks ass.
The beginning to Crashing Waves is like a love note to 1970s rock and roll. The echoey, acoustic intro, that hard riff busting in right before the second verse, the big drum fills in the bridge, its all great. It’s also over seven minutes long, which on paper, seems very long. Even after listening to this album a bunch, though, I did not realize it was that long until I was writing this, and I checked the lyrics on Bandcamp. Which is all you can really ask of a long song, is that it doesn’t actually *feel* like a long song.
It also could probably be cut into two songs, one with lyrics and one almost entirely instrumental, because at around the three-and-a-half-minute mark, the song just becomes a jam session. As instrumentals often do, this section allows the artists to show off their skills without the constraint of following lyrics. Things get a little heavier, and it feels like the band lets loose, but also shows just how well they work with one another. The only punctuation to this is one last refrain by the vocalist to bring things to a tight close.
I said at the beginning that this is a rock and roll record, and I stand by this, but the blues influence on a lot of the songs cannot be overstated. An argument could be made that this is an electric blues album, but there are too many touches of good old fashioned rock and roll for me to agree to that. But the influences are more than just blues, and that shines through on every song.
The Rapid Jags have taken decades worth of music that has inspired them, and turned it into something that is uniquely them.
- Dark Mater
- One More Round
- New Day (An Unexpected Journey)
- Lock Me Up
- Lady oft he Night
- On the Way Back
- Crashing Waves
The Rapid Jags – New Day (An Unexpected Journey)