CD REVIEW: The Last Act - Still Standing
By: Cyrus Rhodes
The Last Act
Genre: Hard Rock,
Engineering (Recording, Mixing, Mastering), Marketability, Dated
Calgary based 4 piece Hard Rock band releases their latest CD Entitled Still Standing in 2010. Band consists of Lead singer & songwriter Jason Turnbull, twin brothers Jeff (guitar) and Paul Larsen (bass), Taylor Sanderson (drums). Influences (and songwriter) include the likes of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, 3 Days Grace, Rush, Metallica and Megadeth.
The CD explodes in your face with apocalyptic ”Still Standing” that hits hard with its wailing guitars, thunderous rock rhythm & melodic vocal delivery from Turnbull. Track 2 delivers more of the same raw intensity with “No Change Again” an aggressive follow up piece that slams you into submission with its aggressive double bass drum attack, no holds barred lyrical content & hooky chorus. Track 3 “Habitat for Insanity” delivers a full throttle rock groove with impending guitar, catchy chorus & heartfelt vocals that flow & ebb their way through to emotional fruition. The CD doesn’t let up - as the CD slowly unfolds I can hear influences ranging from late 80’s early 90’s Whitesnake, Dokken, & old school Megadeath & even brief splashes of Panters & Soundgarden. The music has everything you would expect from a high octane hard rock release. The vocals are gritty & are deep in your grill, & the guitar playing is hot to the touch. The songs themselves are reckless & packed to the hilt with raw intensity. Turnbull’s vocal style works well with respect to this style of music at times reminds me of David Cloverdale (Whitesnake) Chris Cornell (Soundgraden) & even Bruce Dickerson (Iron Maiden). Turnbull’s voice & passion is the best thing about this production – he definitely let’s it all hang out on all songs. It’s not total over the top cookie monster-ish, but is still intense. The guitar playing definitely holds its own dishing out a few very impressive solos & speed riffs that will make your head spin. What I like most about the music is its sheer consistency; note for note & song for song. From my personal favorite “Left for Dead” to passionate “It’s True” to rocking “Problem with Authority” “Twilight Radio Waves” to melodic “Lena’s Song” to mesmerizing “Break Me” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “The Last Light” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
The biggest problem with the CD is not the band, not the music, not even the performances themselves - it’s the engineering aspect of it. The overall production quality (recording, mixing, mastering) seems to be somewhat erratic, amateurish, & a bit all over the place. From drums that lack serious bottom end, to obscure sounding harmonies, distorted guitars, awkward drum recordings – this CD has all the trademarks of a "basement garage-band" mix job. This is especially evident whenever the drums kick in – I have to say this is the worse snare drum tone I’ve ever heard period! It takes skill and engineering savvy to record, mix, & master a musical production to industry standards these days. The impact this will have on its overall sound cannot be overstated. If this was 1975 this would be a cutting edge musical production, unfortunately its 2010, so the bar is set really high for independent artists. Given the talent factor of this band & the scope of the songs, incredible vocals & world class performances - it’s a bit unfortunate. If this review seems lopsided it’s merely a reflection to the extremes presented on Still Standing. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. It’s safe to say the catalogue is a bit dated & repetitive sounding over time. If this CD was engineered properly (Recording, Mixing, Mastering) it would definitely be a 9 or a 10. I might add - all 3 of the production phases must be completed successfully & professionally in order for the CD to be industry standard across the board. For the record: my Seven star rating is hanging on by a thread because of the aforementioned issues.
Still Standing from “The Last Act” is a compelling musical statement from start to finish. Its strength – the raw song for song intensity & solid musical performances from this Canadian 4 piece. No doubt these guys are a total riot to check out live in the back clubs of Calgary. The music is dirty, rock solid, heavy & consistent. The messages are vocal intensely may cause your ears to bleed. Kudos goes out to the intensity, passion & overall vocal presence of lead singer Jason Turnbull. If he just so happened to write all these songs – well that makes him a triple threat. He could be more talented than any of us realize at the moment. If this band gets the ship righted insofar as the engineering aspect – I would very much like to check out there next release for sure.