Smile Empty Soul – Chemicals (2013)

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Smile Empty Soul is an American post-grunge band from Santa Clarita, California formed in 1998,
though most only know them for their hit single “Bottom of a Bottle” from their self-titled 2003 album. Their new album “Chemicals” features some of their best material to date. The lyrics are stronger than ever, the instrumentals are great — and, overall, the band just sounds amazing.

Singer Sean Danielsen’s lyrics are pulled from personal experience, which can give you more connection to the album. When he sings “glass shard sticking out of my heart; now the summer has subsided from the rain” then “False alarm; I could have sworn that something else was going on” on the opener “False Alarm,” it’s clear that it’s very personal this time. “False Alarm,” one of the best songs on the album, offers a lighter touch, but has all the necessary elements a song must have to become a real hit. The title track “Chemicals” seems to be about struggle with addiction, and finds Danielsen singing with such passion and honesty. There aren’t many bands who are bringing Smile Empty Soul’s personal touch to their music, without sounding pathetic.

“Black and Blue” is a perfect example of a song that boasts a hooky chorus but still offers a complex time signature. On “Real,” there is just enough of punk spirit for a band like Smile Empty Soul to perform it live, without mounted guitar effects to get the job done. It’s straight up rock and roll the way it’s supposed to be.

The outstanding “Balance” is one of the most effective songs on Chemicals. With his strong, voice Sean gives you the feeling he’s singing right into your ear. Ryan Martin’s bass-lines are driven and played tight, which takes this song to another musical dimension. The instrumentals are just what you would expect from any Smile Empty Soul record: The guitars are heavy, yet subtle, the melodies are perfectly placed and the drum beats are in perfect timing.

Over the past few years, while listening to rock music, I noticed that many bands these days are afraid of melody. Riffs are, of course, necessary, but if you think of some of the greatest rock songs of all time, they all have a melody. Listening to Chemicals left me with a good feeling that Smile Empty Soul has not forgotten that people still like melodies along with heavy guitar riffs.

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Mike Dostert

Mike Dostert

Luxembourg resident Mike Dostert has written about music for more than two decades, with work appearing in a local newspaper, via his own independent music magazine and at the web sites www.music-brain.com and lux-culture.jimdo.com. He has also worked for 20 years as a DJ and radio host. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mike Dostert
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