Every once in a while a new band kicks up a huge buzz, and more often than not the excitement is over before the dust even settles. A Rebel Few is poised to be the exception to the rule. The Cambridge, Ontario based quartet is turning heads for good reason—they speak, through their music—as a voice for a generation tired of insubstantial, lackluster bands more focused on trends and image than riffs and melody.
A Rebel Few took form a few years back when bassist Adam Shortreed connected with former West Memphis Suicide members Chris Raposo (vocals, guitar), Barry Martin (guitar), and Chris Spiers (drums). Despite their Canadian roots, the band taps into the fine tradition of Southern groove metal, ala Pantera with perhaps a little Black Stone Cherry and old school grunge in the mix. So it should come as no surprise that Sterling Winfield produced and mixed the debut album, As the Crow Flies, having dialed the knobs previously for Hellyeah, Damageplan, Texas Hippie Coalition, and the aforementioned, Pantera. Howie Weinberg mastered the record, he who has his own notable pedigree working with the likes of Rush, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Beastie Boys, and of course, Pantera.
Neither the band nor the album are attempting to reinvent any rock and roll wheel here; they are simply mining, in formidable fashion, a deep well of inspired groove-and-roll that would make Dimebag grin.
As the Crow Flies opens with “Born Again” and its slithery, side-steppin’ riffage. Raposo’s gritty vocals give instant cred to the band’s dynamic sound. One can almost picture a leggy dancer gyrating around the pole to this one in a smoky dive somewhere.
The tempo picks up for the sweaty swagger of “Rebel Few” which chugs along with a well-worn groove. This is followed by the rolling strut of ‘Empires Fall” and the driving, ZZ Top-on-steroids crush of “Dying Breed.” In fact, Raposo’s voice reminds me of a blend of Phil Anselmo and Chris Cornell, but on this track there’s even a hint of Billy Gibbons.
Next up is the Sepultura meets Soundgarden grind of “Said n Done”, which is among the heavier and darker tracks on the record. This is followed by the slow-rolling intro to “Serious”, the album’s longest cut, and a signature piece of crunch, melody and attitude. Every member of the band shines individually here, in particular the foot and stick work of Spiers.
The guys deliver a swampy outlaw vibe on “Who Knows”, before jumping into the Queens of the Stone Age stoned on Sabbath rocker, “Bitter Man”. Raposo and Martin add a sweet dual solo here.
The album closer, “Pure Revolution”, opens with an almost soulful old school classic rock signature: A song that resonates with the comforting feel of slipping in to your favorite pair of broken in jeans and grabbing a cold one. The band’s various influences bleed and sweat throughout the song’s moody rhythms.
What sets A Rebel Few apart is how they manage to take all that is great about heavy music; melody, groove, expressive vocals, muscly riffs, and stand out instrumental performances, and render it all down into straight forward, blue-collar hard rock that can appeal to everyone. As the Crow Flies finds a young yet seasoned band, already comfortable in its own skin, taking pride in its roots and building a lasting homage to its rock and roll heroes.