By Jason Hillenburg
Swirl’s three songs for the Ditch Day film soundtrack are a resounding return to send for anyone who thinks swaggering hard rock is a dead letter. The Southern California based four piece featuring Alfred Ramirez on vocals, Duane “DT” Jones on guitar, Shane Carlson on bass, and Brian “Bam Bam” Jones on drums are an unit that’s undergone changes in lineup and direction since they first formed in the 2000’s, but the 2016 release of their self-titled full length showed they have established a creative direction that’s familiar, yet highly individualistic. The Ditch Day soundtrack includes three tracks from that release and they ably embody the band’s potent mix of virtuosity with a mastery of fundamentals that few bands of this stripe can equal. Most bands in this area boast one or two marquee talents with supporting musicians, but Swirl is a balanced band where each of the four members prove integral to their musical attack.
“Spell” rocks out with convincing authority and opens with some fiery bass playing that’s fluid yet has definite attitude. When the full band falls in, Swirl’s off to the race with tremendous physicality punctuated by raucous flourishes that never bite off more than chew. A lack of pretentiousness is key to making music like this work, but attentive listeners can hear a high degree of musical intelligence shaping this performance. Alfred Ramirez belts out a lung-busting vocal that brings together chest-beating theatrics and a bluesy edge, but his phrasing for the song is ideal as well. The second song on the soundtrack, “Rise Up”, has some elements very familiar to any fan of the genre, but the band never takes the path of least resistance with a perfunctory performance. They deliver a rousing musical attack that puts a personal stamp on familiar themes and the rambunctious attitude conceals a wider message that one doesn’t always find with bands working in this style.
The final song included on the soundtrack “We Are Alive” bursts open with a strong sense of identity while avoiding the same predictability that could have marred “Rise Up”. Duane Jones’ lead guitar can wail with the best of them, but never has too much masturbatory showing off and everything makes sense. The rhythm section attack of Carlson and Bam Bam Jones gives each of these tracks impressive weight while maintaining powerful grooves and this final offering is, arguably, their best performance out of the trio. Swirl has certainly settled on a direction that feels like a natural fit for their talents. They manage to walk a fine line between leering hard rock defiance and cleverness, but there’s not a second where they err too far in either direction. There’s undoubtedly a lot of hard work that went into bringing these songs together, but Swirl makes it sound easy and we’ll undoubtedly be hearing more from them in the future.
Link to the Movie DITCH DAY
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