SONIC UNIVERSE | Album Review ‘IT IS WHAT IT IS’ Set To Drop 10th May via earMUSIC.

    Review by Alistair Wiseman

    Vocalist Corey Glover (Living Colour fame) has teamed up with guitarist Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) to form Sonic Universe. Bassist Booker King and drummer Taykwuan Jackson complete the line up. Signing a worldwide deal with earMUSIC for their debut album ‘It Is What It Is’ scheduled for release on May 10th. The 10-song album was produced, engineered, and mixed by Mike Orlando at Sonic Stomp Studios.
    ‘It Is What It Is’  Tracklisting:
    1. I Am
    2. It Is What It Is
    3. Turn A Blind Eye
    4. My Desire
    5. Whisper To A Scream
    6. Higher
    7. Life
    8. Come What May
    9. I Want It All
    10. Beautiful Disunity
    Upon having this album land on my metaphorical doorstep I had no option but to be open minded, as frankly I had no clue of who or what I was about to encounter. A little research was required.
    Sonic Universe, it appears, are something akin to a supergroup, without actually being one if that makes any sense at all. You’ve a drummer, Taykwuan Jackson, coming straight out of Sworn Enemy, the much travelled Booker King on bass, Mike Orlando, who has already found fame with Adrenaline Mob, whilst also being recognised as guitar virtuoso, and to top it off the singer, (or possibly cult personality), from Living Colour Corey Glover, sporting what Messrs Taylor and Rodger respectively would testify as one of the best rock names out there. An amalgamation of artists. A plethora of performers! A menagerie of musicians! Ah you get the idea!
    So, I hear you cry, what exactly do Sonic Universe manage to conjure from such an ensemble? The answer is, actually quite a lot! ‘It Is What It Is.’ is as diverse as its performers. 10 tracks, some of which have a properly aggressive sound to them, others more soulful, and then there’s a layer of funk that’s permeating through into almost everything. At one point while listening to ‘Higher’ track six on the album and already with an accompanying video on YouTube I detected a distinct homage to the bassline of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Johnny the Fox’ from the legendary ‘Live and Dangerous’ album, but that’s not the only influence here. There’s elements of original Faith No More, a punchiness not dissimilar to some of the aforementioned funk purveyed by Rage Against The Machine when they’re not swearing heavily at ‘The Man’ all mixed in with their own collective styles. It works, and works well.
    The first track, ‘I am’ has floated around the digital ether now for a couple of months, notching up 80,000 plus views. My first impression is, it’s mixed especially well. All too often you get individuals singled out as the main performer and they’re almost forced to the forefront of a song and it sounds odd, but not here. Vocal is crisp and clean, and all the instruments all play their part, especially the bassline which drives the track from start to finish. You can see why this is the first release, but it’s followed up with the eponymous title track ‘It is what it is,’ which slides in nicely where ‘I am’ finished. Aggressive, almost staccato in its delivery and with a guitar solo so slick you’d expect it to be sponsored by Brylcreem.
    Track three, ‘Turn a Blind Eye’ continues in the same vein with Corey channelling his inner Ian Gillan with a couple of screams that wouldn’t be out of place in ‘Child in Time.’ Lyrically it’s probably one of my favourites, and finishes again with a scream that belies his closing in on 60 years of age. Track four ‘ My Desire’ starts again with that hint of RATM, but less caustic. I’ll say again, Booker King’s bass drives everything, setting the pace and tone and allowing everyone around him to do their thing. There’s another tasty solo and then it ends as it begins with that suspicion that they’re not going to do what you tell them.
    ‘Whisper To A Scream’ is more soulful and dropping nicely in as the fifth track, where the opening line sets the tone. “I might be crazy, but I thought I saw forever in you.” It’s as close to a ballad as you are going to get here, bluesy, and something you could definitely sling onto a break up compilation playlist. It’s a good contrast to what’s come before and shows a depth to the group that adds to their credibility substantially. If they get tired of all-out rock songs, there’s an open window here for something more delicate. The vocal is suitably angst-ridden, and closes with great punctuation.
    Having mentioned ‘Higher’ earlier, I’ll just add this: It’s a really strong second song release. Tightly formed and positioned straight after a softer song, it just works. ‘Life’ knocks up as track seven, and it’s usually around here where albums run out of steam, so I’m suitably pleased when instead that beat kicks back in again and there’s no sense of this being a filler track. It’s hard to pick out stand out performance as everything is done well enough that singling out one person over another feels wrong, but you’re certainly left in no doubt that Orlando really knows his craft. ‘Come What May’ follows and again there’s that staccato often monosyllabic delivery that’s been persistent throughout, which is being used as a vessel for emotion, complimented by the rhythm and coaxed forward into something which becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just effective, it’s actively catchy and merits acknowledgement accordingly.
    ‘I Want it All’, the penultimate track, could easily have been the final track as it builds up into a crescendo of noise. ‘Beautiful Disunity’ which is the last track on the album genuinely feels like a single rather than an album finisher. A screamy falsetto vocal at times and some fantastic guitar work leaves me thinking this has to be done on purpose. Sounding a lot at times like an Australian band Mammal and feeling a lot shorter than the just over five minutes that it clocks in at, making it the third longest track on the album incidentally, I find myself wondering if this is a cunning psychological ploy to get the listener to restart the album from the beginning again. If so, given the quality of this soon to be released album, I suspect it might well work. I can think of much worse ways to spend another 50 minutes.
    In conclusion, I’ve found myself surprisingly pleased with what I’ve listened too. This was an assignment I went into having only Living Colour’s ‘Cult of Personality’ as my point of reference, which in truth I knew only through osmosis having spent vast swathes of my adult life in Rock and Metal bars. I’ve come away feeling glad I’ve discovered something new, something different and something which, (if I can bastardise Nietzsche for a second), I could get my teeth into while feeling like it’s also got its teeth into me.
    And honestly…
    I’m ok with that!






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