It’s the keyboard melodies that had me coming back for yet another listen. I must admit, I’m a bit of a prog fan and to my ears the synthesizer can do little wrong. To be clear, In The Verse are not prog rock. They’re a hard rock band out of Wisconsin, U.S.A, started in 2013. “Transformer” is their debut release, from 2016.
Why should you pay attention to this album in 2018? Honest lyrics, for one. Noah Hulbert sings in “Alone”: You look inside my cold, hardened heart / At the things I hide that are tearing me apart”. When he appeals to God, he drops his brave face, encouraging me (the listener) to do the same. Inside, the light and dark are vying for supremacy – a fight that has me weary. God delivers victory in battle, and I am welcomed home.
While the growls and grunts of extreme metal certainly appeal, I sometimes need the clear sung lyrics I hear on this album. I was watching Jason Mantzoukas talk about his record picks at the Amoeba store earlier, where he said he’s drawn more often to the expressive qualities of the voice than to what is being sung; often not even noticing the words. On the “Transformer” album, disillusionment makes way for hope, and I wouldn’t have been able to follow this trajectory if lyrics were unclear. This becomes even more important when you’re ministering by way of your music. I listened to this album on headphones, and there was a satisfying balance in the production. While the guitars do snarl and chug, the melody on the keyboard always punches through. The drums sit wide in the mix, and I’m aware of how bass guitar and synth beds cushion songs. I like added touches such as the filtered voice in the song, “Transformer”, Noah’s voice sounding like it’s issuing from a megaphone. It is also great to hear how Noah takes it up a notch with his screams. I wonder if this will be a recurring feature in future music from the band? While Noah is lead vocalist, I would also welcome more contributions from Chris Cerfus (keyboards) and Dave Hanson (guitars) in the vocal department. Three-part harmonies would be killer.
In The Verse list post-grunge band, Red; and hard rockers Disciple, Thousand Foot Krutch, Decypher Down and Skillet as influences. I’d also venture that if you’re a Stain’d fan, In The Verse will strike a familiar chord.
Standout tracks include “Shatter to Pieces”, “Final Days”, “Mid-Life’s Night” (where it feels like the sun is breaking through the clouds) and “Afterlife”. You also have the added bonus of two prior singles, “Disaster” and “Hostage” in the mix.
“Transformer” scores 7/10.
Written by Karakul
2. Dying Words
3. Already Are
4. Shatter To Pieces
6. Your Sacrifice
8. Final Days
9. Mid-Life’s Night
11. Disaster (single, 2014)
12. Hostage (single, 2015)
Noah Hulbert – Lead Vocalist/Guitar
Chris Cerfus – Keys/Vocals Dave Hanson – Guitars/Vocals
Devin Schumski – Drums
Ryan Kutz – Bass Guitar
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: Dec. 9th. 2016
“Transformer” (full-length, 2016)
Lyric video for ‘Compassion’
Lyric video for ‘Disaster’