Review: Conniption – Relentless Tides
At the End of it All – Opening with a wailing guitar riff ‘At the End of it All’ prepares the listener for an epic album, especially as the bass and drums enter the fray. At about one minute Bill House’s signature fret shredding and screaming leads kicks the song to a whole new level. Drummer Andy Martin kicks up the speed and ferocity of his drum beats, while bassist Cody Dziuk’s distinctive bass lines ring out loud and clear over the riffs of Bill House and vocalist/guitarist Michael Brigham. Just when things couldn’t get any better, Brigham’s vocals join an already excellent track with deep, emotional lyrics such as “I’m in hell abandoned, longing for your eyes” and “At the end of it all, I’ll be there. At the end of it all, will you be there for me?” To top this track off, House unleashes a devastatingly technical guitar solo that will melt your face off. Hell of a good start!
Give me a Chance – Throwing a curveball after just one track, Conniption delivers the album’s first ballad. Over slow, melodic guitars and a reserved rhythm section Brigham pours his heart and soul into a song about losing the one you love. Brigham’s jazzy guitar solo is reserved, but it hits like a ton of bricks alongside of his powerful vocal performance. Before ballad haters can write this one off, the song kicks into Conniption’s signature thrash style at about two and half minutes. The riffs get more technical with House unleashing another of his signature solos, but with an epic power metal feel to it, while the rhythm section gets heavier. All the while, Brigham’s emotional performance never lets up. This song is clearly near and dear to the singer and is quite possibly the hardest hitting tracks to date as we can all probably relate to the Brigham’s emotional torment.
Thank God for the Devil – Starting slow and ominous with bass effects, melodic chords, and lead guitar effects, this track picks up where ‘At the End of it All’ left off in terms of heaviness at about 45 seconds. The riffing is tight and the drums are mind boggling. Dziuk’s bass is a little hidden, but the power is felt in chest when played at high levels, as it should be. Brigham’s lyrics touch on a man giving up on morals and just doing what he feels like doing. Bill House’s shrieking guitar solo plays directly into the madness of the character of the lyrics, while Dziuk’s effects-driven bass solo toward the end of the track keeps this heart thumping tune fresh to the very end.
Becoming the Beast – Relentlessly heavy, this fight song is conscious insanity at its finest and nothing short of a thrash masterpiece. Lyrics carry on the descent into madness seen in ‘Thank God for the Devil’ and is sure to be the a fan favorite, especially after hearing Bill House’s wild solo over the chugging riffs of Brigham and the uncompromising rhythms of Dziuk and Martin.
Time is Money – Opening with a catchy bass line followed by some awesomely technical riffing, ‘Time is Money’ is a stab at the corporate system ruling our lives. And though it opens in a fantastically thrashy fashion, the chorus slows things down a bit and loses a bit of its pep. Regardless, Brigham’s vocal work is superb and the music is hard hitting as always. Bill House is merciless to his fret board, but his approach is a bit more reserved than previous tracks, but still impressive to say the least. What stands out here the most are Brigham’s lyrics as they reflect the unsympathetic, bottom dollar attitudes of management at most job, thus creating a song to which we can all relate.
Self-Destruct – Nowhere on this album does Michael Brigham drive home the madness that comes with a broken heart. ‘Self-Destruct’ is a chugging riff-fest that takes the listener into the mind of an alcoholic trying to ease their pain through the drink. Once more, House’s leads are catchy and his solo is outstanding but a little short this time around. Just when you think you have this song figured out, however, an explosion rips through your speaker and Michael Brigham shows his skill with a neo-classical guitar solo before returning to the main riffs, but with a little extra double bass added for good measure.
Keep Fighting On – Opening with a bass drop and a slow, sludgy riff, this song puts a tilt to your head until a thundering riff comes out of nowhere and initiates a duel between Brigham and House. The song suddenly kicks into a steady riff powered by Martin and Dziuk’s rhythms and Brigham’s melodic vocals. Lyrically, this song marks the turning of the tables, for the lyrics are more about perseverance than surrender. The spirit of fighting through the pain is exemplified by one of the very best solos Bill House has ever performed – this shred-happy solo is explosive and will see your jaw drop to the floor.
That Ship Has Sailed – More hard rock than any of the songs before or after it ‘That Ship Has Sailed’ is a riff heavy monster with a more prominent bass. Brigham’s lyrics are a bit more passive-aggressive than the rest, but give this tune a unique quality. Though it sticks to a general beat and rhythm throughout, this tune is by no means bad. In fact, Brigham’s wailing vocals, Dziuk’s bass-work, especially a mid-track solo, and the unrelenting assault that is Bill House’s guitar solo keep this track from mediocrity. So if one had to pick the weakest track on the album it would be this one, but there’s no shame in being a good song among numerous excellent songs.
Relentless Tides – Opening with rolling drums, an ominous bass line, and melodic picking, ‘Relentless Tides’ appears to be a ballad until the distortion kicks in. Slowly morphing into a heavier thrash tune as time passes, the track suddenly drops into a furious riff that kicks this tune into overdrive with a fast and heavy drum beat. Brigham’s vocals soon enter the fray accompanied by the melodic leads and the backing vocals of Bill House. Unbelievably technical riffing drives this tune as does the uncompromising power of Dziuk and Martin. Brigham’s vocals and lyrics are at their very best making for one of the best Conniption’s songs ever, and that’s even before House unleashes a frantic and stunning guitar solo. Honestly, this is the best track on the album as everything hits just right, especially the frenzied bass solo at the end.
Until We Meet Again – Ending the album is a mellow, but uplifting track touching on the final stage of grieving – acceptance. Through this album we’ve seen Michael Brigham’s character go through the hellacious ride of heart break, hitting rock bottom, picking one’s self up again and moving on. Like ‘Give me a Chance’ this track is a powerfully emotional track that ranks at the very top of Conniption’s discography and is a perfect conclusion to the emotional story presented as a thrash-meets-classic rock album. Definite highlights include Brigham’s powerful and focused vocal performance, the touching lyrics, the atmosphere delivered by the acoustic guitar and harmonies, and the unmistakable emotion showing through Bill House’s guitar solo.
Whether you know the inspiration behind this album or not, there is no denying that Michael Brigham had gone through hell and high water since Conniption’s last album. Like his bandmates, he’s grown so very much since the last album making ‘Relentless Tides’ a superior album in almost every way. Finding a balance between heartfelt lyrics, an established style, and an ever increasing array of musical inspirations Conniption had a tall order with this album, but they hit the bullseye. This is without a doubt one of the best albums of 2016 and an important piece of Midwestern heavy metal culture that should not be overlooked. 9/10