The Rogue Network
In a music scene dominated by indie bands and electronic dance music, The Rogue Network emphatically combine modern music with its bluesy roots on their debut EP. Despite only playing their first gig in March 2015, the industrious band have managed to put together an impressive collection of songs that demonstrate their refreshing and unique sound. The band are already building a following within the Manchester music scene, and fans are excited by their distinctive sound in amongst a plethora of unsigned indie bands they share a stage with. So have The Rogue Network managed to capture their sound on record?
The band are already acclaimed for their songwriting ability, having been shortlisted an Xfm songwriting competition; and this ability is demonstrated nowhere better than on Lowland City. This is definitely one of the more hard-driven tracks on the EP, but features a range of well executed techniques to make it more than just a hard-hitting blues-rock track. The whole song is based largely around one guitar riff in which the guitar tone is vibrant; and it sits over a fantastic groove, driven by the drums, complemented by the bass. The songwriting technique is nothing new, and is used to devastating effect in Lenny Kravitz‘s Are You Gonna Go My Way. Much like that track, The Rogue Network use this main riff to centre Lowland City around; repeating it numerous times for the verse. This draws in the listener as they expect a change to come, and the longer it takes, the sweeter it is when that textural and harmonic change eventually does come for the bridge and chorus sections. What’s really great in this track, and throughout the album, is not only the change in harmony and texture to provide release of tension, but also the transitions between these sections.
For example, in Again, undoubtedly the softest track on the album, the song follows a similar structure to that of Lowland City, with the track heavily centred around one guitar riff, and the chorus section in particular provides a much needed dramatic and textural change. Impressively, the band move into this section seamlessly and effectively by hanging on a chord before building up to the climactic chorus section. The introduction of an analogue synth pad and a much stronger vocal melody really strengthen the song as a whole, providing an alternate focal point for the track to help maintain interest. While it is well executed here, many tracks suffer from a lack of variety within sections, which can lead to them becoming slightly tedious.
The tracks are heavily centred around one aspect at a time; usually the guitar riff in the verses, and the vocals in the chorus. Milk & Honey provides examples of when the band manage to keep sections sounding fresh and interesting, but also contains sections where this doesn’t happen, meaning that the section becomes tiresome to listen to. The verse is centred around a bass driven groove, and the guitars provide excellent counter melodies and extra variations to ensure the section maintains interest throughout its numerous repetitions. Unfortunately, this is missing from the chorus which, despite lyrical variety, lacks melodic variety in the vocals, and sorely misses a counter melody to prevent the repetition of the lead vocal growing tired. This issue is prevalent in various places throughout the album, although thankfully it is not hugely detrimental. The tracks remain very enjoyable, and with such a vast collection of blues styles on show, there is likely something to enjoy for anyone listening.
The Rogue Network EP is loaded with 4 unique tracks that show off the range of styles within the blues genre the band are set within. Ranging from heavy, almost Sabbath-esque, blues metal, to more melodic, softer style blues rock; the EP really demonstrates the breadth of the band’s influences, which can only be a great thing for this Manchester trio. Unfortunately, some of the genres slightly miss the mark in execution. The heaviest track on the EP, A Killer’s Song, possesses a really engaging riff and groove in the verse, yet the vocals somewhat let it down. A big aspect that a lot of people love about blues is the tone of the vocals, with that tremendous grit and passion really shining through. However, Geralt Williams sounds like he is casually meandering along with the song, rather than really driving it forward with the energy that’s required, and ensuring the vocals are main focal point. While the music is highly convincing on this track, reminiscent of Sabbath‘s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album, Geralt‘s vocals are more suited to tracks like Again on the EP; perhaps the most convincing performance from all members.
Overall, The Rogue Network EP is a tremendous debut for the band. All the tracks are incredibly enjoyable in their own way. The EP demonstrates The Rogue Network‘s fantastic songwriting ability, including their aptitude for writing great blues riffs and grooves; as well as their talents for creating dynamic transitions to move between texturally contrasting sections. The EP does fall flat in some aspects, including melodic variety within sections; and giving a more concerted performance warranted by the genre; but this demonstrates room for growth. The Rogue Network EP shines through despite these minor discrepancies, and it definitely showcases the band’s exciting potential. I look forward to hearing from the trio as they further hone their sound in the future.
The EP is available to listen to on Soundcloud, or can be purchased from the band.
A launch night will be held on Saturday 12th March to celebrate the release of the EP.