Sometimes you're just looking for something a little different, and you can always find that at Skull Alley. I decided to see who was coming up last week and happened upon the Orbs. Their story of coming together from a number of well-known bands and experimenting with a new sound piqued my interest. It just so happened that this new group was releasing its debut album this week, Asleep Next to Science.
Doing a bit of homework before last night's show, I listened to the stream of the new album online and was very impressed with its musicality, so I was pretty enthusiastic about seeing them perform live. I had this idea that I would show up at a packed-out venue of hardcore prog rock and metal fans and feel that I had finally penetrated into a thriving sub-genre of extremely cool music people in Louisville that I had not rubbed shoulders with before.
Unfortunately for the bands, this was the smallest crowd I've seen in the handful of shows I've attended at Skull Alley, which was kind of disappointing. I don't know if it's that everyone is back to school or the oppressive heat, but there was a mere sprinkling of folks gathered in the dimly lit confines of the Alley.
Launching into “Megaloblastic Madness,” Adam Fisher's compelling vocals create an atmosphere of slight dread with lyrics about a young woman suffering from a mysterious virus. In fact, if you'll permit a literary reference, I found myself thinking about a Jim Crace novel called Being Dead, a rather lyrical and biologically graphic treatment of physical decomposition – so maybe something a little worse than a virus. Keyboardist Ashley Ellyllon adds haunting background vocals and synthesizer and the song sweeps and swirls with slowly building crescendos of guitars (Dan Briggs, Chuck Johnson) and drums (Clayton Holyoak), dipping back into jangly keys and bass. It's a creepy journey, complex in it's juxtaposition of rhythms and sounds.
Catching just wisps of lyrics, it's as if songwriter Fisher decided to create a soundtrack for Grimm's Fairy Tales, with weird beasts, slime, fur, malicious children, and mad adults. There is also humor in the lyrics as when in “We the Animal,” Fisher sings, “The bears asked me to dinner/Had me over, didn't have me for.”
All are clearly seasoned musicians, switching gears easily between subtlety, restraint, and bursts of operatic energy in songs that weave together all three. Louisville was just the second stop of their tour, which heads west to the coast from tonight's show in Nashville, then loops back east to finish up in mid-September. I hope they are rewarded with bigger crowds as they go along and people catch up to the good buzz they're building with a fine debut album and creativity to spare.
Lead singer and songwriter Adam Fisher
Guitarist Dan Briggs
Keyboardist Ashley Ellyllon
Drummer Clayton Holyoak