I love music and I love driving and whenever the former enhances the latter, I’m happier. Thus it’s always nice to come across a musical act that makes the road journey a pleasure.
The other day I discovered the music of just such a band via a Facebook ad. Normally I’m reluctant to click on these kinds of ads. It’s not just the pervasive online surveillance to which we’re all subjected that’s a deterrent. It’s the fact that more often than not most click-bait leads you to garbage. Happily in this case the complete opposite was true!
Musicians come in many forms and with many vices and in my experience the worst are usually both the most vocal and the least talented. The underlying reason is that most performers be they musicians or politicians are woefully insecure and suffer from varying degrees of inferiority complex. The same goes for writers and painters and probably applies to most jobs.
Consequently I’ve developed a prejudiced mental filter for most advertising on the internet, especially when it comes to aspiring unsigned bands. For example if the promo ad looks too professional and too staged, then I instinctively avoid it: The reason being that mediocre acts tend to promote image as a substitute for their lack of talent and substance. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… you get the idea.
However what drew me to click on this particular link was the video’s art work, akin to William Blake meets HR Geiger. There was no image of the band and therefore no suggestion that the band’s members were promoting their egos over the music they create. Therefore I clicked, I listened and within moments I was converted. Congratulations Opine! You’ve got a new fan!
Opine is an electronic rock quartet based in Perth, Australia and I encourage you to check them out on their Youtube Channel, Facebook or on iTunes. To my knowledge they are also available to hear on Spotify.
The band comprises Dean Thompson on vocals, Robert Spurling on guitars and synthesizers, Ben Violante on bass and Mathew Blyth on drums. The band’s list of influences includes Alter Bridge (whom I greatly admire), Tesseract and the Butterfly Effect.
Certainly those acts have left their imprint on Opine’s music. However this author detected many other influences that make Opine’s sound more powerful than the latter two groups and more versatile than that of Alter Bridge.
To start Robert Spurling’s guitar work conjures the Cult’s Billy Duffy and U2’s the Edge at their best whilst simultaneously fusing the virtuoso attention to detail of Joe Satriani. Much of Opine’s music is attributable to Spurling with many of the riffs lifted and updated from his 2015 solo album Catalyst, also available on iTunes. That album demonstrated that Spurling alone is a force to be reckoned with. However his work dazzles when set in the context of a full band.
Singer Dean Thompson may derive some inspiration from Daniel Tompkins of Tesseract, but Thompson’s voice possesses more power. His vocal range is impressive sweeping from a moody timbre reminiscent of former Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier to a falsetto that conjures Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes.
If we imagine a musical group as a living organism then its singer is the soul, the guitarist the heart. For Opine, bassist Ben Violante is the muscle binding together the band’s sound. The understated hero of the mix, Violante’s bass-playing expertly elevates the work of Spurling and Thompson to the forefront whilst providing essential consistency to balance Spurling’s intricate arpeggios.
Drummer Mathew Blyth is both the skeleton and driving force holding up the musical animal that is Opine. Blyth is the powerhouse behind the group’s tracks, alternating between relentlessly driving the music onward and pursuing calculated restraint at key moments. He is skilled at accenting the riffs and lyrics with snare and tom flourishes and his footwork is precise and powerful. Key to Blyth’s success is his understanding of spacing and timing, a skill that reminds this author of Fightstar’s Omar Abidi at his best.
My only criticisms of the group’s releases to date lie in certain technical aspects of their recording production and mastering. The ending of “Like a Ghost” feels abrupt in the wake of the wall of sound coming at the listener throughout the track’s four minute seventeen second length. There is a beautiful section of guitar, synth and vocals at around 2:52 that would in my opinion serve as an excellent fade-out for the track. Not only does that section possess a quiet ethereal quality, it complements as if by pathetic fallacy the opening lyrics: “I love you when I need you the most/And when I don’t I’m like a ghost/A phantom host…”
There are all moments in the recordings where Thompson’s vocals seem to compete with Spurling’s guitar while Blyth’s snare sound is at a near constant pitch and timbre throughout.
However I’ll admit I’m nit-picking here. The production standard is very good for what is as yet an unsigned band. Like the early recordings of Lamb of God pre-Ashes of the Wake, Opine would benefit from the talents of major label production, something I’m confident they will acquire based on their efforts so far.
Opine is currently at work on their debut album scheduled for release later this year. The following tracks are available for download on iTunes. Needless to say I’ve already purchased all of them and would encourage you to do the same in order to support this excellent up-and-coming group.