Album: Destruction Manual
Producer: J. Robbins
Label: Hardline Entertainment
Release: February 8, 2011
Rating: 6.1 RockRolls
For Maryland-based Lionize, being understated is just part of the business. Such is the fate of a band with such a DIY-perspective on their recording and promotion. Despite an impressive number of North American tour dates lined up for 2011, including a stint with the Vans' Warped Tour, Lionize's third album and fourth studio release, Destruction Manual, is likely to just creep out as a small blip on the radar. However, despite the band's premature self-glorification through it's moniker, this gem of reggae-frat-rock may prove successful under Kenneth Seaton's Hardline Entertainment label.
For the full experience of J. Robbins' production of the album it is necessary to listen to the album with headphones or a solid surround system. The audio mix sharply uses wide-balanced placements of tone in the stereo setup. The individual guitars on "Savior of Fontana" are panned into the hard-left and hard-right of the stereo prominently, yet don't sound any less full on their own without doubling or wet effects being panned opposite their dry tracks. The overall effect is as honest a recreation of a live show as can be burned onto a digital track. Jimmy Miller would be proud.
Nate Bergman delivers a stunningly solid vocal performance, whose soul (not tone, mind you) coupled with recording Destruction Manual in Kingston with Sidney Mills of Steel Pulse fame makes it hard to believe that the only thing on the album actually from Jamaica (mostly) is Sidney himself. Rounding out the sonic quality of the album are Mel Randolph's one-drop drum beats, Chris Brook's ambient toying on the Hammond and other keyboards, Henry upton's punchy bass, and tight rocksteady guitar work from Bergman himself and from Tim Sult of Clutch who lends his prowess to Destruction Manual.
What Lionize has done right with Destruction Manual: the steady, chill energy of stoner-rock anthems like "D.C. Is Tropical" and "Dumb and Dangerous" are sure to keep any frat-house's kegger hopping and the beer flowing; slowing down the beat, "Nation Builders" and "The Alhambra Inn" fuse early-reggae with deliberate power rock into walls of sonic joy; and the melodic hooks of "Savior of Fontana" from the entire band make it the standout single from the album.
Where Lionize misses: Tons of style, but a lack of substance. Lionize has found a happy medium where it has blended reggae and stoner-rock into really gripping openings that will make you bob your head to the beat and even get into the first chorus. But despite hitting the groove, what is most disappointing about the album is it's lack of captivating the listener to anything beyond the first hook or riff. Lionize is a band that wants to say a lot with its music, but doesn't have a whole lot to say. Repetitive themes and lyrics without much purpose keep this album from its potential, and while Destruction Manual is a good listen, not even David Hinds and Selwyn Brown's cameos on Killers and Crooks can catapult this album out of its overall mediocrity.