Direct Divide – Bridges
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Record Label: Independent
You’ve gotta love when an album lands in your inbox and connects immediately, even though you’ve never heard of the artist who created it. That’s the case with Bridges, a new album from a Los Angeles-based band called Direct Divide. Blending crunchy guitar chords with classical music flourishes, sweeping arena arrangements, and powerful female vocals, the songs on Bridges strike a unique chord that will likely appeal to fans of Paramore, Yellowcard, 30 Seconds to Mars, and My Chemical Romance. In short, these guys (and girl) will be a natural fit for many listeners in this scene, a fact that pretty much single-handedly makes Bridges one of the most essential obscurities I’ve heard yet this year.
Direct Divide don’t always hit the mark here: occasionally, the band’s guitar-heavy sound ends up sounding a bit like a ten-years-on Evanescence retread (“Writing on the Wall” is probably the biggest offender) which is, frankly, not something I think anyone is interested in hearing at this point. Luckily, for the majority of its runtime, Bridges dispenses with or transcends generic songwriting tropes in favor of unexpected musical decisions. Perhaps the first and biggest left turn the band makes is to give lead vocals duties to a female. As the band’s frontwoman, a girl who calls herself Razz helps to differentiate Direct Divide from most of the “cinematic rock” bands they call influences, from 30 Seconds to Mars to Muse and beyond. Razz’s voice (and hair color) is most comparable to Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine fame, though Welch’s voice certainly has a more baroque coloring. If Welch’s vocals posit Florence + The Machine as a classically-minded arena rock group, then Razz’s mark Direct Divide as a band equally influenced by modern pop punk and 90s alternative rock. Still, the two bands are certainly cut from a similar cloth, and it's a pleasure to hear the Florence influence at work here.
The other unexpected decisions made throughout this record are found in the instrumental arrangements. Usually driven by domineering, Anberlin-esque guitar parts (see “Running”), the songs on Bridges reach a higher plane of being when Razz’s electric violin floats through the proceedings. Case in point is “Meteors,” a soaring power ballad that boasts both Razz’s finest vocal performance on the record and a climactic, memory-laden violin solo. Spurred forth by chugging cello and viola orchestral accompaniment, the solo splits the difference between Yellowcard ("Gifts & Curses," anyone?) and classical music (the band calls Vivaldi an influence, which is most evident here). The tune is the best on the album, narrowly edging out the driving, hooky ode to long distance relationships that is “Persephone” and the powerful closing track, “Won’t Be Alone” (though both of those are quite good as well).
As an acoustic ballad marked by flourishes of piano and pedal steel, “Won’t Be Alone” instantly marks itself as a departure from the rest of the record. Guitarist Kevin Proctor also takes on parts of the lead vocal here, a decision that has mixed results toward the beginning of the song (Proctor’s voice is fine, but a bit shaky on its own), but which turns into a homerun when Razz enters and the two begin singing together. Their voices intertwine as the song morphs into the sort of epic and electric finale one might have expected from a record like this. Proctor delivers a towering arena rock guitar solo at the peak of the song and Razz shoots off a few more Broadway-belt-worthy moments before the song fades back into acoustic alt-country lullaby mode for its final lines. “As I look back, everything was changing/I never knew what I had before,” Razz and Proctor croon over softly strummed acoustic guitar and elegiac pedal steel. It’s a lovely ending to an album that is refreshing because it consistently throws curveballs into its "meat and potatoes" guitar rock architecture. In the future, Direct Divide might consider shooting for even more curveballs, since the acoustic, balladic, and orchestral moments are easily the highlights here. For now though, Bridges is a solid new record from a young band worth watching.
Just listened to this album cause you said if you like yellowcard. Unfortunately, besides the violin, I don't see them being similar at all. This band is more like evanescence (like you said) and Flyleaf with a violin.
Break the Cycle and Meteors were the only two songs I liked.
Also, for the band members, you should flip drums and the dude name around.