Conditions – Full of War
Record Label: Good Fight Records / eOne Music
Release Date: March 26 2013
It’s a rather crazy thought to think about how many bands and artists that are out there; there are hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions, who have come and gone. That means there is so much music for anyone to listen to, especially with the advent of the internet, all of that music is at your fingertips, literally. Most music websites will recommend things for you that you may enjoy, and most of the time, they know you better than you know yourself. My point is, because there are so many bands out there, some of them are bound to fall through the cracks, so to speak. One such band for me is Virginia progressive-rock/pop-rock band Conditions. They are one of those bands I’ve heard about for a very long time, but never had the urge to listen to them, for whatever reason. Well, I finally did have the urge to listen to a record by them, mainly new record Full of War. I’ve seen it around stores, but never got around to checking it out. Thankfully, I hit a week where not much came out, so I finally bought a copy of it. From what I had read about this band, I was almost sure what to expect – progressive rock in the vein of Saosin and Emarosa. When I actually listened to the record, I was half right. On one hand, it’s certainly a progressive rock record, with some rather impressive guitar noodling from guitarist Alex Howard, and some very interesting instrumentation from the rest of the members, along with vocalist Brandon Roundtree. On the other hand, though, the record is partially rooted in pop-rock, meaning that there’s certainly a crossover appeal for a band like this. They combine pop hooks with progressive rock instrumentation to make for something rather interesting, which remind me of bands like Tides of Man (especially their sophomore record), Saosin, and Squid the Whale. Because of their affinity for pop hooks, they do tend to play it safe throughout a majority of the record. Only a few times do they truly shine. It’s clear that the band hold themselves back, and while that’s not a bad thing, they still do adhere to the pop formula, and it prevents their impressive instrumentation and progressive rock influence to really shine.
The record begins with opening track “Walking Separate Ways,” and immediately, it starts off with a bang with vocalist Brandon Roundtree showing off his voice. When I said that the band kind of holds back on this record, he’s also included in this. While he is a very solid singer, he does hold back a lot. He’s got a set of pipes, but he doesn’t “use” them to his advantage. His voice works well with this kind of music, and he complements it nicely, but with most of the record, including “Walking Separate Ways,” his voice is restrained slightly. It’s not truly awful, but it does become a hindrance when it’s clear that he (along with the rest of the band) are capable of so much. Anyway, the opening track is a pretty good idea of what you, the listener, will get with this record. It’s not the best song on it, but it’s a good idea of what the record will entail, which is what an opening track should achieve. The catchy hooks are there, along with the impressive instrumentation and Roundtree’s voice that does hold its own, but does hold back. The rest of the record is nice as well, and does follow this “formula,” so to speak, but there are some songs that switch it up. One song is fourth track “Best Mistake.” It’s not really a unique kind of song that really does anything differently, but instead, it has one hell of a hook. Following track “Love Elusive” is the exact same way, and if you’re not careful, these songs could get stuck into your head.
The main “flaw” that this record has is mainly just that it does tend to get a bit tiresome after awhile, because the songs do sound quite similar to one another, which is a common problem for a lot of records. Like I said, a few songs do switch things up, especially in the second half of the record. There’s some interesting guitar noodling done on tracks like seventh and eighth tracks “Every Day Is a New Life” and “The Descent of Man.” The latter track is actually one of my favorite tracks, too; it’s a rather aggressive song, which is a bit different for this record. Finally, my favorite track on the record comes in the form of last track “Not Giving Up… Not Yet.” It’s another “aggressive” track, but this song definitely shows off the band at their best. It’s one of the only songs that shows what they’re like when they do push the envelope a bit. Ultimately, that’s the biggest thing that bugs me. Tides of Man’s sophomore record Dreamhouse is great because it successfully combines pop sensibility with the progressive-rock sound that they had on their first record. This record seems too poppy and less proggy, there really is no balance. That’s what made Dreamhouse so wonderful, but while Full of War is solid, it doesn’t do too much to really stand out among its peers, including records like Dreamhouse. It’s not a bad record, and if you do enjoy pop-rock meets progressive, this is definitely a record to look into.