Style: Melodic/Hard Rock
Release Date: 18 Nov 2022
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Formed as recently as 2019 but with the six members apparently all with fifteen years experience in a variety of other bands and projects, About Us are a melodic rock band from Wokha, Nagaland, which is so far over to the northeast of India that it's east of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, near the Chinese and Burmese borders in what I would call southeast Asia. And if that conjures up thoughts of ethnic eastern folk music as a flavour in their sound, you can ditch them right now because About Us sound as perfectly suited to the Frontiers label as any carefully unaccented Scandinavians you can conjure up.
Well, for the most part. There's some variety to About Us that runs beyond the expected spectrum from AOR to hair metal. There's plenty of that, of course, and it makes up the majority of what we hear, but there's some lighter stuff and even some heavier stuff too to keep it interesting. Not all of it works and I think they stretch a little further than may have been advisable but I appreciate a band who doesn't want to stay in one bucket and About Us certainly seem to be that.
They're a six piece band, with two guitarists and a keyboard player, but the first one to highlight is Sochan Kikon, perhaps unsurprisingly for melodic rock because he's their vocalist. Right Now is an impressive stormer of a track to kick off the album and he shows off both his range and his sustain on this one. Then he does it again on Gimme Gimme just to make sure that we're paying attention. It's impressive, but he overdoes it a little as the album runs on and I'd say he's pitched too high on Lead My Heart, not as a peak but as a general level.
That said, he goes low too at points and even into other styles than pure and clean, because there is a shift late in the album that took me utterly by surprise. The first six tracks, from Right Now to Rock on Top aren't vastly different from each other. Gimme Gimme is softer than Right Now but it has a hair metal edge to it that makes me wonder whether I recently heard it on the soundtrack to the first season of Peacemaker. Lead My Heart has some solid hard rock riffs. Loaded Love is a power ballad with a subtle country twang. Rock on Top is jauntier and more progressive, including the experimental intro.
But then Rise adds a modern edge to the guitar that's very nineties, almost a Pantera vibe, if not remotely as heavy. That song settles down somewhat but Golden Troops doubles down, reinforcing the Pantera feel, heavying it up and even shifting Kikon into a harsh vocal like he's auditioning for a metalcore band. It's a slightly jarring shift and, while I think Rise fits within a decent range for a versatile melodic/hard rock band, Golden Troops feels out of place, especially given that the song after it, Open Your Heart, is the softest, most overt ballad on the album. The dropoff from one to the next is huge.
I'd be surprised if most reviewers don't highlight Kikon first and most. He has an admirable range, though he doesn't seem to acknowledge that less is sometimes more, and he definitely leads this band into the spotlight. However, I'd also call out the guitarists, Renlamo Lotha and Pona Kikon. I don't know how they divvy up duties, as both are simply credited for guitars, rather than one lead and one rhythm. I'm assuming that they're swapping those roles as needed and that suggests that the pair of them are highly talented and just as versatile as their frontman. That's evident in the riffs but especially in the solos, which sometimes play for emotion and sometimes more to show off.
If Sochan Kikon is the first obvious plus point in About Us, then Lotha and Pona Kikon are another and one that becomes more and more obvious with each listen through. I should add that there's a third Kikon in the band, Soren Kikon on bass. I have no idea if they're all related but it seems like a good possibility. Completing the line-up are Yanni Ennie on drums and Renbomo Yanthan, who's perhaps even more fond of eighties rock than the rest of the band, judging from his contributions here.
If you're enjoying the current trend of Frontiers to stretch the relatively tight boundaries of what we might call melodic rock, About Us ought to be up your alley. They're not a huge departure, with Golden Troops the obvious exception to that statement, but they're different enough to stand out, which is good.
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