Shattered Bliss â€“ When The Laughing Stops
I’m guessing that it’s pretty rare, when digging for diamonds, that one might rise to the top and be easy to find. From the little I understand about diamond excavation, it’s that it takes work. They are usually embedded in rock and you need to chisel and dig your way to get them out of wherever they lie. I start with this because I think it’s a pretty good analogy for this album. It’s really rough in some spots, but if you can dig past that, there is a diamond in there. There is potential for the diamond to be excavated, shined and made brilliant for the rest of the world to see.
Shattered Bliss hail from Tennessee and this is their second album to be self recorded and produced for release. It’s clear that these guys want to get their music out to a wider audience to be heard and I think it deserves that opportunity. The first thing I noticed about the band is the strong vocalist, front man Mike Dodson. He has a decent range and an excellent quality to his voice. I could see him being the type of singer that American Idol might like as their token rock guy every year. In his lower register he reminds me a lot of Silverchair’s front man Daniel Johns, except Dodson has a twang to his voice that makes it more interesting. When he puts power behind his voice he sounds great and does a great job of conveying his emotion. His versatility is really what made this band interesting for me.
Musically they are competent and do a good job of backing their unique frontman. The songs are varied enough that it gives plenty of opportunity for Dodson to flex his range. There are slow songs, fast songs, heavy songs, lighter songs and songs that mix all of the above. The music has influences from many different bands like Godsmack, 10 years and even at times there is a little Tool vibe going on. The track Empty Inside is everything that Shattered Bliss is good at all in one track. It starts out slow with a nice build up into a heavy chorus that lets Dodson flex his vocal cords. The track goes back and forth between the hard and soft brilliantly. I could see this being a radio hit today, as it stands.
The album falters a bit when taking the whole thing into account. There are some odd choices musically that are jarring and make you scratch you head. There are 2 or 3 songs that have a guitar solo which feels like the lead in to one last verse or one last chorus but once the solo is over the song just stops. One other problem is that there are two songs, These Feelings and Love-Hate that have a really similar sounding bass intro. It wouldn’t be a problem if the songs were spread far apart but since they are right next to each other it gives a really weird sense of ”didn’t I just hear that”. The first time I went through the album I had to check my iPod to see if I backtracked to the same song.
The other issue with the album is one that you have to try and look past. The production on the album is varied, some of it is fine and some of it makes the music sound muddied down or certain parts of the band are muffled out. That has to be forgiven as its obvious these guys aren’t studio engineers, they are rock musicians. After listening to the album a few times my conclusion on the production was that if they were able to get a record deal and an experienced producer, I really think this band could soar. They are just as good as any number of similar acts on the radio and I think they have a frontman that is unique and strong enough to get them a lot of fans.
Overall this ends up being a mixed bag. The vocals are impressive, the songwriting is good, musicianship is adequate and the lyrics are pretty introspective. There is a good balance there but they need the help of some one who has worked in rock music before to turn the knobs and get the best out of the band. If that happens, I could easily see these guys getting radio play and playing decent sized shows. Right now it’s obvious, at times, that their lack of experience in the studio has led to some poor production and strange choices in songwriting. This band can be that diamond I mentioned earlier. All that needs to happen is have someone pick it up and polish it. If that happens we might see these guys shine on a bigger stage.