- Bryon Harris
HEAD's 'Afraid to Sleep' is Addictive
'Afraid to Sleep' is an Alternative, Art-Rock-Industrial concept CD by the Vancouver based band, HEAD. It is a 14-track song-cycle about Her. And who is she? She is called Alberta, but she could be you. Because the nightmares she has, could have easily been yours if you took a different path or a wrong turn. All it takes is a twist of fate.
The CD opens with the instrumental song “HEAD.” It is an epic soundscape that sets the mood with a solemn minor scale motif on the keys which develops, classical-industrial in nature. Enters a moving cello and two minutes in, an impassioned guitar lead takes you fully under. It feels like a fantasy, but it's going to be a nightmare. The instrumental grows into full cinematic glory with cello, guitar, percussion, synth all building until it hits a wall, stops, and drops you like a one night stand. Your fate has been sealed and the story begins. Welcome to ‘Afraid to Sleep.’
In the song “I Drive,” you are 18-years old and in control. Sex is fun and games. “I’ll take what I want, I’ll take what I need. I’m in control. Lay down. I drive.” This song rocks it out with monster synthesizer and guitar work followed by hard-hitting drums and pulsing bass. Lyric, HEAD’s lead singer, enters with all the right stuff. She has great pitch, tone, range, and expression. She can take you from a whisper to a lyrical high that you don't want to come down from. “Sickness” follows about being on the edge, crossing the line. It’s heavier, a bit more industrial, and Lyric delivers the right amount of desperate edginess. “Sex Like Rockstars” is one of the best songs on the CD. HEAD combines hard-rock with a grinding groove that blows your mind and body: you’ll be moving to this song, maybe even jumping up and down. Lyric brings it on in the Madonna-like chorus, “This ain’t love we’re making, sex like rock stars. This ain’t love we’re making, sex like rock stars.” The guitar comes in and out like a siren. The lyrics paint a picture of addiction, desire, dark secrets, and anything-goes-behind-closed-doors. The writing is never clever or cute; instead HEAD gives you poetry that reads like a journal. In the song's video, HEAD uses mannequins to remind us of the shallow nature of our addictions.
I’m taking a break from the tracks to say a few words about the goth-clad band: Stone, OD, The Phantom, and Styxx. These guys are tight, precise, and rhythmically spot-on. They know how set a groove and keep things interesting with layers of melodic material. HEAD crosses several genre lines including rock, heavy metal, alternative and industrial. They employ distortion and effect when needed and can take you on a ride up to a full expansive wall of sound and back down to a drop of a note or a single haunting line with ease. Every song has backup vocals with harmonies or counter melodies that sound great. Lead singer Lyric is the real deal. This music comes from places she has been; it’s a cathartic vehicle and she isn’t going to sugar coat for you nor is she going to hide behind it. She reveals her darkest pleasures like a feminist on fire and invites you to be a voyeur. No shame, but lots of game from this singer.
The next three songs, “Feel Something,” “Darkness,” and “Save Me” immerse the listener further into an underworld of numbness, pain, emptiness, dirt and drugs. A highlight was the opening to “Darkness” where you feel like the drum beats are following you like a stranger in an alley; tense and foreboding. By the time the song “Jesus Junkie” arrives, it appears that the “old monkey lost it’s shine.”
In “Jesus Junkie,” another favorite song on the album, we get great lyrics, “Baby’s got a brand new monkey.” Baby’s got a Jesus Junkie” complete with a Hallelujah, a choir, and a preacher. Could Alberta be turning a corner? Not for long. “Feel Your Ache” opens with a motif followed by several beats of silence, repeat then bam! The song moves into an all out head-grinding groove. Lyrics voice is seductive. “Take What you Want. Use What You Take. It’s all a game to see if I’ll break.” The ending of the song is fantastic with vocal lines that weave in and out.
I’ll save some of the tracks for your imagination like “Obsession” and “Hypocrite.” I recommend listening to “Everything.” It’s a melancholy ballad where Lyric shines singing over arpeggios and there’s a gorgeous, searing guitar solo, and nice keyboard playing. The CD closes with “Washing off the Blood.” I won’t tell you how this industrial-rock opera ends, but there’s sex, violence, and healing. Go to HEAD’s website to listen to the tracks and read the stories ending.
HEAD gives you everything they have on ‘Afraid to Sleep.’ Nothing is held back. This 14-track CD is an epic accomplishment, especially now-a-days when most bands are putting out 5-song EPs. Each track gives you more than a story – each track is a novel with chapters and moments that you will want to visit again; If "Afraid to Sleep' was a book, it would be a thriller, a page turner, because once you start, you can't put it down. Like the story itself, HEAD is addictive.
Fans of HEAD can look forward to a new project release, spring 2017, a tour in the UK and Europe. Lyric has a radio show called "Slip into the Fray" on Pacific Northwest Radio, Thursday nights at 9 pm (Warning Explicit Content). To buy the CD and meet HEAD, go to their website.