Dave Ellefson’s upstart record label EMP Label Group has been quite busy ever since its birth late in 2015. The label has already assembled a roster rich with heavy acts ready to reach the metal masses. Those acts include the likes of Cage9, Doll Skin, Green Death, Dead By Wednesday, and a handful of others. While the label has its fair share of heavy acts as part of its stable it also has some acts that are just as anxious to make it to the mainstream. They are Another Lost Year and Apollo Under Fire. Both bands have already released their latest respective records this summer. The latter released its new album Alien Architect just last month and the prior released its self-titled debut this past June. That record is perhaps the most standout of any of the records released by EMP Label Group so far this year. That is because it is by far the label’s most radio ready record hands down. Between its solid musical arrangements and its equally uplifting lyrical content this ten-song record proves to be one that will move listeners deeply from beginning to end. Being that it is so powerful, it ultimately proves to be one of 2016’s top new independent albums and one of EMP Label Group’s best offerings yet.
Apollo Under Fire’s self-title debut album is one of 2016’s top new independent albums hands down. It is also one of EMP Label Group’s best offerings yet. That is thanks to the combination of the album’s solid musical arrangements and its equally uplifting lyrical content. From one song to the next, the combination of those elements makes this record one that will put a smile on any listener’s face. That is something that the rock (and music) community needs now more than ever. The album’s opener and lead single ‘Gotta Believe’ is a prime example of how that combination gives this record such strength. The song’s musical arrangement instantly conjures thoughts of Creed with its modern power ballad approach. Love Creed or hate it, audiences on either side of the discussion should understand this comparison is meant only in an observational fashion. Guitarists Peter Klett (Candlebox, Lotus) and Jimmy Kwong have crafted a sound in this song that almost directly mirrors that crafted by Mark Tremonti in his days with Creed. To be more specific, its sound is akin to that of Creed’s ‘hit ballad ‘Higher.’ It isn’t a direct lifting. But the influence (intended or not) is there. And it does its own part in making the song so enjoyable. The song’s lyrical content does its own share to make the song enjoyable, too. That is because of the positive outlook on life offered up in that content. It is exhibited as front man Donald Carpenter (Eye Empire/Submersed) sings here, “Even though I live in daydreams/I don’t feel like holding on/But I gotta believe my days aren’t over/Gotta believe this sun will shine sometime/Gotta believe this rain will cleanse my pain/An stand before a brand new life.” This is just part of the hopeful vibe presented by Carpenter in the song’s lyrical content. He goes on to sing, “We must face this fear of failing/With the will to overcome/Many candles shining brightly/Though they all were lit from one/We’re mirrors in faceless crowds/Bound by the sound/Of our lives as they pass us by.” From here he and his band mates return to the song’s chorus, driving home that sense of determination and positive mindset once again. Some might call it sappy. But there are just as many people out there that need that positive reminder in their lives. Even this critic has needed such a reminder more than once in life. To that end, that positive lyrical message and the song’s equally moving musical arrangement make the song in whole a clear example of what makes Apollo Under Fire such a solid debut for the band. It is just one of the songs presented in this record that serves to exhibit that, too. ‘One Track Mind’ is another key example of what makes this record such a strong debut for AUF.
‘Gotta Believe’ is a key example of what makes Apollo Under Fire’s self-titled debut album such a strong effort from the band. The song’s sweeping, Creed-esque musical arrangement couples with its equally uplifting lyrical content to make the song in whole a work that will put a smile on so many listeners’ faces. The positive vibes exhibited through that combination of music and lyrics makes this song one of the record’s best moments. It is only one of those great moments, too. ‘One Track Mind’ is another song that shows the strength of this new effort from the band. It stands out in part due to its musical arrangement. Much as with ‘Gotta Believe’ (and most of the songs presented in this record) this song’s musical arrangement also boasts a certain influence from Creed. That is obvious in the fact that its arrangement is also centered on that familiar modern day power ballad style presentation. On the good side it isn’t just a repeat of ‘Gotta Believe’ in that arena. It is, however just as big and epic as the arrangement presented in said song. What’s different is those big, epic moments are saved here for the song’s chorus. They are juxtaposed by a softer, more introspective sound presented in the song’s verses. Speaking of the verses they offer their own value to the song, too. Carpenter comes across here as singing from the vantage point of a figure who has changed quite a bit over time; someone that has gone from having that one-track mind to being more open to different viewpoints in life. This critic in particular interprets the song’s lyrical content as centering on someone who is looking back on who he once was versus who he is now. That is, again, just this critic’s own take on the song. Hopefully it isn’t completely off the mark. Regardless, it is clear through that interpretation and the song’s musical arrangement why this song is another important part of Apollo Under Fire’s self-titled debut. The deep thought presented in the song’s lyrical content couple with its equally powerful musical arrangement to make it really stand out as yet another of the album’s best moments. It is definitely not the last of those key moments either. ‘Weightless’ is one more example of what makes the album such a strong first effort from the band.
‘Gotta Believe’ and ‘One Track Mind’ are both key examples of what makes Apollo Under Fire’s self-titled debut record such a strong effort from the up-an-coming quintet. That is due to the songs’ mix of powerful musical arrangements and their equally deep and moving lyrical content. One is a full-on uplifting piece that reminds people to try and maintain an optimistic outlook even as difficult as it might be to do. The other is more of a figure offering an introspective look at his past and present. It basically reminds people (at least in this critic’s interpretation) that if he can change, anyone can change. Cue the Rocky theme song. Yes, that really bad reference to Rocky IV was fully intended. While both songs offer their own insight and power they are not the only songs that stand out on this debut effort from Apollo Under Fire. ‘Weightless’ stands on its own merits, too. In regards to the song’s musical arrangement, it stands out because yet again that Creed influence is just as evident as ever. Yet in its defense it still maintains its own identity separate from those power ballads crafted by Creed. Keeping this in mind, the song’s lyrical content stands out even more as its main anchor. The song’s lyrical content serves as its main anchor because of just how much it boasts its own identity separate from the rest of the album’s offerings. This time out Carpenter sings about the power of a person’s love. Carpenter’s subject seems to be addressing a love interest here as he sings, “Can I stay/With this restless heart/Is it too damn cold living miles apart/Can I stay/These games I play/With my fragile heart/I always push away/From a caring thought/These games I play/These games I play/These walls I built come crashing down/I am free/Your love has embraced me now/I am free/It’s a love that can overwhelm…floating ten feet off the ground.” This is a feeling to which so many people can relate. Who hasn’t felt that overwhelming sense of happiness at finding that person whose love overpowers everything else? Carpenter’s subject continues on much in the same manner in the song’s second verse singing, “Well I have faith/In my changing heart/I have found the strength missing from the start/I have faith/I now have faith/These walls I built/Come crashing down/I am free/Your love has embraced me now/I am free/It’s a love that can overwhelm.” What is interesting, in hindsight is that Carpenter mentions as he returns to the song’s chorus something to the effect of being on his knees and finding happiness. So it leaves one to wonder if he is referencing not so much romantic love but spiritual love. It would definitely be interesting to learn if that is what was being referenced here. Regardless of spiritual or romantic, the positive message of strength from love is there. It makes the song stand out even more. Considering this, it joins with ‘Gotta Believe’ and ‘One Track Mind’ to show once more just what makes Apollo Under Fire’s self-titled debut record such a strong outing for the band. Any of the other songs not noted here that make up the rest of the album’s body could be cited just as easily when considering the album’s strengths. All things considered, Apollo Under Fire proves in the end to ultimately be one of 2016’s top new independent albums. It also proves to be (along with Alien Arnchitect, Another Lost Year’s new offering) yet another viable chance for EMP Label Group to gain some real mainstream notoriety.
Apollo Under Fire’s self-titled debut album is one of 2016’s top new independent albums. It is also one of EMP Label Group’s best chances at attaining real mainstream notoriety. Another Lost Year’s new album Alien Architect is the label’s other major chance at that notoriety. As is evidenced in all three of the songs noted here, the album’s powerful musical arrangements join with their equally uplifting lyrical content to put a smile on any listener’s face. The same can be said of any of the album’s other offerings, too. All things considered, this record proves to be a strong start for Apollo Under Fire, and with any luck just the start for the band. Apollo Under Fire is available now. It can be ordered online direct via the band’s official website. More information on the album is available now online along with all of the band’s latest news at:
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