April 6, 2017
Charlotte’s own unsung heroes are gearing up to release a ten-song album by the name of Venomous Blossoms. After the band gained notoriety with their first two releases, the excitement surrounding this full-length record is much deserved and listeners can expect a pleasant surprise in the direction of the new material. Shadowgraphs stand far apart from most in the local scene and their feet stay firmly rooted in the ‘70s-era funk, soul, and groove.
At first listen, Shadowgraphs maintained the integrity of that golden time, resounding the auditory ideology of the free love movement in their songs and revitalizing the genre at large. The opening track “Countryside” fades in with twangy guitar picking reminiscent of the Beatles or Pink Floyd before hitting the track hard with their own brand of groove. Vocalist Bryan Olson’s voice bobs and weaves throughout each track, never breaking out too far from the band’s entrancing drone. Olson’s voice is ethereal and breathy, taking influence from such acts as Hawkwind and The Moody Blues, while still incorporating his own personal vocal style to separate Shadowgraphs from the typical. The combination of Olson with fellow vocalist Wils Glade makes for an excellent blend of two voices that stay separated enough to create a distinction, but close enough to remain fresh and interesting as they bounce back and forth off of each other. The next songs follow suit with the first, reflecting a similar hazy sound, riddled with what can only be imagined as a supercomputer of a pedalboard. Right off the bat, bassist Ethan Ricks stands out with the intense rhythm and perfect tone that creates the hallmark for the record. It’s clear that the bass is definitely driving the bus throughout most of Venomous Blossoms, another cornerstone of the psychedelic rock genre that Shadowgraphs has carried through the decades into 2017.
However, as much as the bass sets the tone for this record, it’s the combination of Olson’s voice and the simplistic guitar work that makes this group one that pushes boundaries. By the time listeners get to the fourth track “Eastern Holiday,” a heavily folk influenced anthem, they’ll probably be wondering if they’re still listening to the same band. Consistency is not the first word to associate with Venomous Blossoms; every track reaches into a new area of music, most noticeably in the classical influence on the title track. As eclectic as these songs may be, Shadowgraphs always seems to find home base, falling back in line to the driving bass, the bright guitar melody, humming rhythm, and Olson’s voice fighting through the mass amount of reverb present throughout the whole record. Finishing up with “Cloud Reflections,” “I Almost Died,” and “Bossa Supernova,” the band continues to bridge the gap between the norm and the unfamiliar with unorthodox percussion sounds, woodwinds, and even some brass in conjunction with the sheltered domain of synthesizer and reverb. The album closes out on a mind numbing drone with a nearly depressing fade, diametrically opposed to the start of the record and showing off the range of emotion that this band can employ in just ten songs.
Shadowgraphs may be calling up influences from years past but, one thing is certain, with the modern inspiration they bring to the forefront of their sound in Venomous Blossoms, nobody will be able to deny that they’re breaking the mold in the Charlotte music scene.
Catch Shadowgraphs at their farewell show on December 9 at Snug Harbor.
Listen to Venomous Blossoms by Shadowgraphs: