Chris Robyn

Album Review: Black Map- In Droves

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Rock music is alive and well. Armed with inspiration, influences and artistry, Black Map has officially cemented their place in rock with their new album In Droves. Consisting of 15 songs, well technically 12 if you don’t count the three interludes, In Droves breathes a much needed breath of fresh air to the rock world. Ben Flanagan (Bass/Vocals), Mark Engles (Guitar) and Chris Robyn (Drums) play off each other tremendously. They have the ability to be heavy without compromising melody.

Starting off the album is “Run Rabbit Run” this is a great start to the record. It’s rifftastic, heavy hitting and thumping with soaring vocals. From there the album takes a turn towards the melancholy with “Foxglove” then back to the rock with the melodically heavy “Ruin.” As the album continues with songs like “Heavy Waves,” Dead Ringer, “Octavia,” and “No Color” you can tell that Black Map has really dialed in their sound. By the time “Indoor Kid” kicks in, you can tell you that you’ve been experiencing an “ALBUM.” “White Fence” is drenched in atmosphere. While “Just My Luck” is a solid rocker. ” Cash For The Fears” is a solemn track that is full of depth and emotion. Closing out the album is the epic “Coma Phase,” which is a great summation of the album.

Black Map is a band for the times. Their sound is full of 90’s rock without being a copy. If I were asked to describe what Black Map sounds like I’d say Failure mixed with Helmet. The vocals and lyrics of Ben Flanagan are full of melody and deep. Mark Engles guitar work is showcased brilliantly. Bringing some of the ambience and atmosphere from Dredg, really helps to make the heavy riffs, their own. Chris Robyn is one of the most underrated drummers. His work in FAR alone deserves that nod, and his playing on this album is just as good. Black Map are the “X marks the spot” type of band if you are looking for the next great rock band.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Run Rabbit Run:

Ruin:

Just My Luck:

Heavy Waves:

No Color:

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Unsung Masterpieces: Far- Water and Solutions

617M0HMR75LIn 1998 Far released what is considered by many to be one of the top 10 influential albums of the “emo” movement in music, Water and Solutions. This record and band attracted a strong cult following in the late 1990s, due to the single “Mother Mary” and the band touring with long time friends in Deftones and Incubus. The album itself had a more melodic sound and richer fuller production thanks to Dave Sardy, who was the producer on this album. The lyrical subject matter of Jonah Matranga and his vocals stretched from the raw screams to a more soulful singing voice, thus providing a real sense of intimacy for the listener to relate the words to. Musically the band has always been on point. Shaun Lopez distorted guitar and his remarkable tone is highly influential. His knack for creating a driving riff with the right amount of melody is often replicated but never quite the same as he does it. The rhythm section of John Gutenberger and the hard hitting drums of Chris Robyn were as tight as tight can be. John’s bass bellowed with the right amount of thump to push Chris’s heavy playing into the heights of the right amount of heaviness needed to fit with Shaun’s playing and Jonah’s vocals.

Sadly, not long after they released Water and Solutions, the band broke up. Though in 2008, the band reformed for a handful of US dates, and also a small UK tour. And in 2010, released a new album At Night We Live via Vagrant Records. At Night We Live is a solid album, and not just a throwback. Again though in 2011 it was announced that  Far would not be be getting back together as there was just “too much drama.”

Far is one of those bands who will always be recognized for the great work they did, the material they put out, and the bands they influenced. And those of us who were fortunate to see them will always know that for sure.

Far- Water and Solutions:

By: Brian Lacy

Album Review: Black Map- …And We Explode

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I’ve talked a lot about Black Map. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live a handful of times, and even interviewed them. So it comes with great pride that I review their debut album …And We Explode. This album is full of heavy riffs, pounding drums, pulsating bass, and vocals that soar above the rest of their peers. The use of melody and structures really plays a big hand in making this a great album. It’s really not every day that you can put on an album from start to finish and truly grasp each note, and word. Ben Flanagan’s crystal clear melodic voice really takes the songs to another level while Mark Engles guitar breaks through with sonic heaviness, not to mention the fiery drum performances from Chris Robyn. My favorite songs from the album so far are “Chinasaki,” “I’m Just The Driver,” “And We Explode (part 1).” “Melee,” “Gemini,” “Ropes,” Black Map are the perfect band to help usher back rock music to the masses. I can’t wait to see where they go next. This album is worth a purchase as is a ticket to their shows. So do yourself a favor and check it out!

Scale of 1-10: 9

Black Map- …And We Explode

http://www.blackmapmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/blackmapmusic

By: Brian Lacy

Band Of The Week: Black Map

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I’ve talked about this band a lot, reviewed their shows and interviewed them. They are one of the best new bands I’ve heard in a long time. I can’t stop listening to their Driver EP. They deserve all the good that is coming to them. Their balance of being a heavy rock band with melody is beyond intriguing. For a power trio they really put out a lot of volume. The drums are thumping and pounding courtesy of the heavy hitting Chris Robyn. The guitars are delicate and crisp when they need to be and then change in to distorted crunchy heaviness thanks to Mark Engles. The bass is driving and plays off the riffs so well. Vocally the range of Ben Flanagan is astounding. His ability to hit high notes then go to a gruff scream is tremendous. Black Map is one hell of a gem to see live. There is so much energy that it permeates through the crowd. Be on the look out for their debut fill length soon!

http://www.blackmapmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/blackmapmusic

http://blackmapmusic.bandcamp.com/album/driver

By: Brian Lacy

Interview with Black Map

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Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Engles and Ben Flanagan of Black Map before their show at The Wiltern as part of Chevelle’s La Gargola tour. Here’s what went down.

Thank you guys for sitting down talking and hanging out. My fiancé and I were at the Viper Room Show and even with technical difficulties, which made it punk rock, it was still a great show.

Ben:
Yeah glad it was towards the end, we had a good time, we had a good show. Last 2 songs were totally fucked, but I still left the stage thinking that was good show, even though we couldn’t play the last 2 songs.

Being that this is your first tour as Black Map, what has the crowd reaction been like and what are the ups and downs so far?

Mark:
It’s been amazing. Spoiling even. Having a headliner who’s so kind. I already had a relationship with them, from when Dredg did some touring with Chevelle. So that part is spoiling. We walk into the venue on the first show and there is no awkwardness and just start talking right away. Some tours it takes weeks to even talk to each other. On this tour we are playing great venues in front of great crowds. The crowd is very open-minded. The Chevelle crowd wants to listen to some rock n roll. And if you’re good at what you do they’re gonna accept it.

Ben:
This crowd wants to like us and the other band Highly Suspect who is great. It’s been nice getting out there. It’s warm from the get go. And it’s been our job to elevate that. Their fans are a bunch of sweethearts. It’s been great

Mark:
Nothing’s been thrown at us so that’s a great start.

The Driver EP came out earlier in the year, I bought it when it came out. My fiancé has it in her car, we both can’t stop listening to it. With everything that’s on your plate, I know you’ve been working on your full length. What is the time table on that?

Ben:
We are close to done with it and that some Tuesday in mid October we hope to release it. We have one more full song to record and some tweaks, mixing and mastering. We’re about 85% done with the whole thing.

What made you want to be in a heavier band considering that you’ve been in more of experimental/alternative melodic bands?

Mark:
We’ve been talking about it loosely for quite a while, when we’ve been out to dinner at a bar or watching a baseball game. We both know that we have the type of chops the way we play music. We know we are capable of it. I grew up listening to heavy stuff, we both did. Also, having Chris Robyn being down to do it, he’s a heavy hitter, it’s what he specializes in. So with all that, why not go back to a power trio or simple rock band. It’s just fun. When we walked in the room the first day, we said let’s just have fun. We had a 12 pack of beer and just rocked like we were 18 again.

Ben:
There is kind of a void to fill. I loved and still love the type of music the Trophy Fire is, the lighter alternative rock. I miss when I was younger, just playing the drop d brutal just kind of heavy riffs. Getting in a room and be able to do that as very cathartic, and then to still apply that sense of melody that we have in our other bands, brings out a really good feeling.

What bands really brought you together, especially in the writing?

Mark:
The obvious are our former bands. There are elements of Dredg, Far and The Trophy Fire. And other things from that era. Failure came up a couple times. Sepultura and Entomed on the guitar side of life, Helmet’s in there. I think all the stuff that influenced us in the mid nineties. Even the stuff that we looked as that was kind of underrated, like Faith No More, bands that did well, but weren’t the big pop radio hit bands.

What’s the driving factor of being a power trio? What really encapsulates your sound?

Mark:
I really like the fact that Ben is playing bass. He’s a guitar player and we really lock up on riffs and it allows us to get more intricate. I think when a trio is tight, it sounds so much tighter than that of a quartet being tight. You can really back up what you are playing. That was a fun part for us at first. Let’s write things that are very tight and intricate. It’s just simpler that way. And when you load into shows you have a lot less gear and all that other shit that goes with it too. It’s great.

While in Black Map, do you have any ideal tour mates or what’s your ideal bill?

Mark:
I think any band we enjoy that’s a loud, guitar-driven band would be great for us. Chevelle is actually one of them. Ben brought up months ago, before we were offered the tour.We’d be happy to play with any band that sounds similar or we’ve been influenced by. With my previous band, we’d over analyze things more. Like if someone offered us a tour, we’d think is this good for us. It this a good look? With this band, if the band is loud and we respect them, we’d probably say yes.

Personal Influence wise, who is the one that made you pick up the guitar and sing?

Ben:
It’s pretty simple for me and actually cliché. When I was 11, I got Nevermind. I basically wanted to be Kurt Cobain. That’s why I started playing guitar. So definitely that started it and went in a million different directions after that. I almost got a little sentimental the other day when we pulled into Seattle. We’re on this tour and it’s going great and I was kind of back to where it all started for me wanting to play guitar and be a singer.

Mark:
I gotta go with a lot of the metal from the 70’s and 80’s. I was listening to music at a young age. I had an older brother, but it wasn’t until Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Randy Rhodes, that sort of thing. That whole group of bands really made me want to start playing.

That’s really cool actually. Ok If you could pick your top 5 favorite albums and I know its one of those crazy put you on the spot questions…

Mark:
How much time do you have?

Until you need to go to sound check

Mark:
It’s tough for me, because whenever this question is asked I automatically go to certain albums like Dark Side Of The Moon and OK Computer. Then I start thinking of genres and different stages of life too. For me Pink Floyd and Radiohead, bands like that came a bit later, even Portishead. But early on it was the metal stuff. Sepultura Chaos AD is in there. Though it all becomes very convoluted in my mind. Like when I was 10 this album changed my likes, then you go through a renaissance of other styles in your 20’s and makes you listen to other things.

Ben:
We’ve talked a lot about different bands with their records that influenced us like Fantastic Planet by Failure, King For A Day Fool For A Life Time by Faith No More, The Shape Of Punk To Come by Refused. Albums like that. From start to finish they are beautifully executed and tell a story.

Mark:
I know one for you and me too. California by Mr. Bungle.

Did you get a chance to go to any of the Failure reunion shows?

Mark:
Saw them twice got to see them open for Tool and their headliner.

Ben:
Them opening for Tool was cool but their headliner with the 2 sets was fucking cool.

Oh I’d throw Tool Aenima in the mix too.

You guys mentioned that you are going release the album in October. Are you going to do a fall winter tour or wait till the next year to get out there?

Mark:
It’s all up in the air. We are trying to get anything we feel would be productive. We are definitely thinking about what we could be doing and what not. There are things in the works but nothing confirmed so I really can’t say much about it…

Ok for my one cliché type question, what’s the status of Dredg and The Trophy Fire? I know you Mark went with Dredg over to Europe recently.

Mark:
Europe was great and successful. We all agreed we have another record in us but there isn’t a rush to do it at this point.

Ben:
Same with Trophy Fire. Love the guys and we all get along, I’ve just been focusing on this and there are only so many hours in the day. Cool thing about being in a band is that there is no boss looking over your shoulder telling you to clock in.

Ben and Mark:
We’ll do it when we feel the time is right to go back to those projects.

Thank you guys for sitting with me and letting me ask you some questions and taking the time.

Ben and Mark:
Oh you are welcome, it’s our pleasure.

 

 

Interview by: Brian Lacy

Black Map: Live at The Viper Room

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When it was first announced that Dredg’s Mark Engles, Far’s Chris Robyn and The Trophy Fire’s Ben Flanagan had gotten together to play music, the hairs on my arms stood up (all in a good way). The three formed the band Black Map, a melodic hard rock band that shows the harder side of what they all have to offer. In a live setting they are undeniably awesome. Their live show is intense as it is raw and powerful. Chris plays with the same intensity that he’s played with since back in the FAR days, only this time he has added more groove to his playing. Mark has a very unique tone with Dredg and parts of that carry over but in this band you can tell his love for the heavier side of things, especially with the riffs he plays. Ben has a great sense of melody with his voice and his bass tone is thick and driving. All three of these guys make what a power trio should be. Their set at the Viper Room on Saturday night was inspiring. Despite a few technical issues, they were on fire. Playing the four songs from their EP and others yet to be released, everyone in the audience was really into it. The unreleased songs has a great balance of melody and heaviness. Even their banter in between songs provided a few chuckles while at the same time engaging to everyone. I can’t wait to see them again.

Their debut EP DRIVER is 4 songs of nothing but fantastic. Kicking off the E.P. is “I’m Just The Driver.” This song is what a lead of track should be as well as a great introduction to what the sound of the band is.  The next track “Gold” has a melodic edge to it all the while rhythmically driving. “Head For The Hills” showcases Ben’s vocal ability as powerful rock singer. The music that accompanies the song is melodic in nature and shows off more of what Mark can do on his guitar. The closing track “Ropes” is a great song that features a rocking sing along (which has been missing from rock music in general). Musically this song has a nasty vibe to it with it’s dirty bass and pounding drums, but also has a sheen to it with the guitars bouncing back and forth between clean and distorted.

Black Map has recently stated that they have enough songs for a full length which they hope to have out later this year as well as lots more shows to come. These guys are the real deal, they know how to write great songs and bring back hard rock with melody!

 

 

http://www.blackmapmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/blackmapmusic

http://blackmapmusic.bandcamp.com/album/driver

 

By: Brian Lacy