Halfdown Thomas – Beautifully Strange

Label: Rock Ridge Music
Rating: 4 Guns

Buy On:
Halfdown Thomas

Written By: Ben Millikin

Halfdown Thomas knows how hard it is to complete a great album. All of the practice and production that go into recording make for a lengthy, time-consuming process.
But when you mix in a hurricane, a massive computer glitch, and a busy engineer, you can only imagine how relieved the northern Alabama quartet was when the album came to a conclusion nearly three years after it began.

After having their mastered tracks flooded by the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the band had to wait a year for the studio in Mississippi to be refurbished only to lose more of their work to an unfortunate failing of technology. Then, after patiently waiting and working around the hectic schedule of Three Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson, the band was finally able to get out from under their recording demons and finish the album on the third try. And although it may have taken an extended period of time, Beautifully Strange, Halfdown Thomas’ third full-length release, was well worth the wait.

Right out of the gate, Beautifully Strange comes right at you with an extra dose of grit and energy that new listeners will be surprised by. The combination of various forms of metal, southern rock, and even a tinge of grunge reveal how the band has evolved over their lengthy recording endeavors and have even started to carve their own niche in contemporary rock. The use of some cool alien-sounding synths (“Come Inside” and “Beautifully Strange”) not only add some interesting ear candy to the mix, they give the songs more depth as a whole. And vocalist Randy Ayers displays why he is more than just your average frontman. Unlike a whole host of rock singers who are simply yell into a mic and hope some kind of melody comes out, Ayers takes time in crafting his lines. He is capable of blending into the different moods of various songs and at times he cuts through the mix with an amazing vocal range that is reminiscent of Eddie Vedder.

But the real driving force behind any great rock record lies in the riffs wielded by the guitarist, and axe man Wesley Smith is no exception. To the untrained ear it may simply sound like mere walls of distortion, but guitar enthusiasts will be able to appreciate Smith’s variety of tones and amps as well as his apparent heavy metal influences: the bright, cry-baby wah shred on “Come Inside” is a signature Kirk Hammett sound; the catchy neck slides on “Lost Chance” pay homage to the great Dimebag Darrel; and the lightning-quick finger-tapping licks showcased on “Burn” would melt the face of any nu-metal fan. Smith, has the rare quality of knowing when to back off and when to crank his half-stack up to eleven, giving all of the songs a unique dynamic sound.

For as much adversity as Halfdown Thomas went through, the effort and overall quality of Beautifully Strange is pretty remarkable. It may not win rock album of the year, but with their resiliency and determination, Halfdown Thomas has proven that they are an up-and-coming band worth keeping an eye on.

Like Halfdown Thomas? Check out: Breaking Benjamin, Fuel, Shinedown

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