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Black Note Graffiti – Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You (2017)

posted November 7, 2017, 10:42 am by JasonHillenburg | Filed Under | comment Comments Off on Black Note Graffiti – Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You (2017)



Hailing from the Ann Arbor area of Michigan, Black Note Graffiti’s second full length release picks up where the first one left off on many fronts. The title, Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You, continues the tradition established by their Volume 1 debut and the songwriting takes a significant step forward in mixing their intensely personal approach, burgeoning penchant for nuance, increasing musical sophistication, and ruggedly direct sound for more impact than we heard on the debut. Volume 2 includes eleven songs with a warm, muscular sound that shows why they’ve attracted the attention of some of the best modern producers during their so far brief tenure together. You can credibly call much of the material hard rock or heavy metal, but labels matter less than usual with Black Note Graffiti thanks to an overwhelming intelligence burning through in every tune.

“No Love Lost” is highlighted by a chopped down, muscular guitar performance from Kris Keller and vocalist Ricardo Ortiz. The production buffs up his sound, to be sure, but there’s little question that Keller’s the caliber of a guitarist who can dominate a performance but, likewise, turn his talents to more proper use and make the overall song even more of a musical rush – as he does here – without ever requiring the spotlight. He steps out some for fiery lead work near the song’s end and it punctuates things nicely. The same near-guttural, staccato hard rock riffing returns on the song “Such Is Art”, but the overall effect of the guitar attack and another lung busting Ortiz vocal is slightly tempered by well arranged backing vocals. There’s an added moodiness with this song we didn’t hear on the opener. Black Note Graffiti picks up the pace with the song “False Start” and forsakes the tense riffing of the first two track for a more varied guitar thrust while making use of vocal harmonies once more. Ortiz has a great, blood-curdling yowling quality to his voice and desperation is something he summons quite naturally.

The moody quality described in “Such Is Art” returns with the song “Bars from the Cages” and there’s a light hallucinatory quality to the droning vocal melody that nicely dovetails into the song’s themes of escape and the jagged guitar sound is equally befitting of the song. There’s some of that same slightly disjointed, jagged quality coming through the mid-tempo atmospherics of “Why We Trust” and there’s a feeling of the band stretching out a little more with this track. Ortiz’s vocal has a much more relaxed, yet dramatic quality for much of the song. There’s a brief and intimate interplay between the bass, vocals, and guitar during the opening of “Relapse” that segues into another lean, churning riffer,. The album’s concluding number “Send Off” continues the downbeat nature of many earlier songs in an distortion washed elegy to a broken relationship and its aftermath. This is more firmly in the alternative rock vein than many of the other songs and has a heavy enough footprint to serve as a good closer. Black Note Graffiti have taken the next logical step with Volume 2:Without Nothing I’m You and the new directions necessitated by a lineup shift seems to have placed them on a new and even more promising road.


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