“Noise Gate + Reverb” is the eponymous debut, pop-rock album by Voices of Memory, the brainchild of Paul Zachopoulos and John W. Ziss, with energetic, danceable rhythms, catchy melodies and some deeper thoughts.
“Noise Gate + Reverb” is a traditionally curated 10 tracks album with an LP-length of 43 minutes. This musical experience is highly recommended to listen in Hi-Fi – like on Tidal or Apple Music – for the best experience.
“Noise Gate + Reverb” is an entertainment oriented, impeccable, sound-journey album is and ode to the ‘80s synth-pop and pop-rock, akin to the pathfinding A-ha, Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Depeche Mode. Yet, it is not a trip down memory lane but a whole new level of freshness and liveliness, a vivid and candid portrayal of the human condition in this contemporary era, telling stories about love, loneliness, heartaches and joy, the ups and downs in our everyday life. It might take a few repeats however at the end the songs of “Noise Gate + Reverb” go under the skin.
Let’s discover the songs and their different characteristics.
Track 1, Nothing Without You: begins the album as a heavy pop-rock statement, a very clear A-ha sound and Voices of Memory can pull this off with this sad love song. Darker harmonies in the synths and trademark guitar distortions frame the track with well-panned lead all placed around an on the top vocal, similar to early Bono. The band tends to compose their songs to go out with a bang and this piece is also one in the line – also a perfect choice to start a live performance. This is just a brilliant way to deliver a song from its concepts.
Track 2, Too Young to Die: is the first single from “Noise Gate + Reverb” and the one with the longest intro in the album. It all feels like an audience clapping for one and a half minute when the vocals enter with a very well thought design and fine-tuned delivery, honing the songwriting craft as well. Here the so characteristic guitar sound of the band starts to prevail. Catchy melody for the chorus and a melodramatic topic with synth-pop eggs from the ‘80s. A good choice for radios to pick this one.
Track 3, Lolita: the song that sounds like it came off from The Cure’s Disintegration album with a mash-up of a synth-grunge from the ‘90s. It starts out slow and a bit less adequate, however, after the first minute it flies the listeners close to the stratosphere as it morphs subtly into a fantastic quasi-stage performance. This is an absolute concert song with strong vocals and great harmonies – and very, very well done mix. That is how a song can step up in itself.
Track 4, The Things You Said: it is Depeche Mode cover and that is always a hard task since they have actually invented, created and recreated this genre. Keeping it simple and focused is a good choice for a better delivery. It might not have the original’s magnificence but does not have to be, it is a respectful retake with artistic and emotional additions to make it more relatable; guts needed to have a run on a Martin L Gore song – Voices of Memory has the right ones.
Track 5, A Means to and End: is a pop-ballad straight out of a prom night, very danceable and amazingly well-put together. Likable guitar sound in the beginning followed by a good trait when a singer knows his notes and uses them wisely and emotions -finally and rarely – can be expressed in lower keys as well, without whining falsettos as way too often mainstream artists are misguided. The second half of the song gets alive once again as it was a new track but just an elevation of the already high-flying heartistic experience. This is the time when candles (phones) lit up at a concert. And for a good reason.
Track 6, Here Comes the Rain Again: as the cover of the timeless classic by Eurythmics is a right fit on “Noise Gate + Reverb” and fortunately the band does not attempt to recreate the Stewart-Lennox experience but dare to bring their own game on; and it works. The changes are well chosen and delivered.
Track 7, This Cold World: it is a playful ode to genre-defined predecessors. A double-time on the kicks sets the tempo well, the usual distorted vocals and guitars provide a good theme with the dark-synths’ uneasy harmonies. The mix does right with the arpeggio in the middle part in the break and this radio friendly love song takes the listener where it should: a saying goodbye to old memories.
Track 8, Stormrider: has a grunge-ish vibe mixed with early Placebo and the vocals deliver so well that the song lifts up and by the second verses a perfect musical vertigo is embracing the listeners. The mix of the bass and the pads are very well done and the mastering makes it really alive in high-end headphones and quality as well. From the early flanger guitar echoes ‘till the dense decrescendo in the extended endplay is a real craft, perfectly fitting to big stages.
Track 9, Come Back Today: is the most auteur experimental song in the album, and odd one out, in which the Voices of Memory takes a great risk to show they are more than just a hit-writing duo. The dark synths and the guitars with the tensed drum program give a vibe of The Cure in their bests.
Track 10, Don’t Say a Word: serves as the farewell song at the encore – it is a truly well-written and masterfully delivered, emotional prog-synth-rock, as it was a Depeche Mode song, still completely different. The soundscape elevates the vocals, the piano and synths set the tone, the melody has a flair of a Brit-pop hit from the early ‘00s, the minor chords in the second half where the extended outro takes place with the distorted but not too much guitars are a cathartic experience where once again the cry of the soul resonates in the chorus. Probably the most melodramatic track in the album and it works just on the tip of the scale not to be too self-licking and still be on the top of sadness – a perfect soundtrack and an instant concert favorite. No better way to finish an album than have the audience wanting more.
Ultimately, “Noise Gate + Reverb” is the album to buy in a physical format and play during dedicated listening times and traveling, live venues and hear it at Voices of Memory concerts. The energy is awesome and several songs have rightful places in radios and as movie placements. Voices of Memory is definitely one of the most promising band this year and era.
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