King of Arms - Illusions
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: March 21, 2009
King of Arms is the creative moniker for Allouez, Wisconsin native and Edgewood College student Chris Frey. Illusions is his debut release, a four song EP that seems heavily influenced by vernal themes.
How is it?
Dreadful. It takes a lot to get pegged with the D word, but this music certainly deserves it. Album opener "Seeds," begins with arch guitar and a sparse, roomy feel that immediately makes it clear this album was recorded live. Frey sings: "Wait for the springtime, sunlight, wait for the feelings." He throws in a vocal echo, and one can only guess this is an attempt to mask his horribly ineffective vocals. Towards the end, he tries to throw in some ambient noise and truth be told the arrangements are nice, and the orchestration and pacing are admirable. There are nuances at work here that are really quite pretty. The brass touch at the end of "Seeds," is snazzy and works well against the guitar plucking. But a singer/songwriter project relies on the talents of a strong vocalist and sadly Frey is very far from being a strong vocalist.
Second track "Legs Like That" is a whirlwind of jagged guitars and punchy-rock that tries its hand at garagey power-pop, with muffled vocals and all sorts of blips and riffs, and it's really just a trashy mess. Points go to him for trying to stretch his creative limits and chase down the diversity angle, but holy hell this is just awful. This song proves the following to be true: it s incredibly difficult to get engaged when the vocals and music force the listener to turn away.
He returns to the acoustic on "My Dragonfly Love," a snotty, confused mid-tempo song that offsets the paltry vocals with ambient swirls, ethereal noises and distortion effects. The title is certainly sweet, but the song is anything but.
The cheery acoustic intro of fourth and final song "Flying Through a Daydream," has a Dave Matthews-like opening (no lie!) and is rather upbeat and perky with a staccato vocal touch that marries scatting with spoken word. It moves along at an unhurried pace and is rather boring and uninspiring. And then everything changes. The counter marks the three minute mark and the song takes off. There's a renewed energy and vigor and suddenly all the mediocrity of the disc is washed away and there is some promise. And then, bam! The disc ends. Why? Say it ain't so! Why couldn't that final flourish have come earlier?
It's not easy to sing, that much is a given. Some people are born with it, others aren't. But it's almost unfathomable that Frey could think vocally he has something to offer here. The tonality is unpleasant, his timing is off, and there's little to no proof that he can rise above the music. Sonically, his skills are solid and both "Seeds" and "Flying Through a Daydream," offer promise and the groundwork for a very successful instrumental project. Until then, God help him!