February 8, 2014 was an evening filled with a much anticipated show from local Edmonton rock n’ roll 4 piece showstoppers the Grave New World. With their seering guitar solos, epic vocals, thundering bass grooves and ripping drum solos the four apocalyptic riders cut a swath of classic rock covers, original tunes and mind blowing stage antics.
Lead by frontman Darren Knapp, the four took to the stage with some witty stage banter to the effect of “Good evening Edmonton, tonight you are our blind date and we aim to impress”. With sporadic random hoots and cheers from the packed house in attendance the group lit into several iconic rock classics including such greats as New Orleans Is Sinking by the Tragically Hip, Alive by Pearl Jam, Rock n Roll by Led Zeppelin and several hits by Stone Temple Pilots and others. With Darren at the mic, the lead vocals were filled with exceptional depth of character, masterful range and dramatic chameleon like change ups. One of Darren’s most refined abilities is his power to capture the essence of any cover song deliver it as his own while still preserving the integrity of the original artist. While a fine like to walk when attempting such complex numbers as Rock n Roll by Led Zeppelin, Knapp negotiates the peaks and valleys of the music with the deft footwork of a vocal Fred Astaire. While watching Knapp lock on to a favorite Stone Temple Pilots fave like “Creep” is to see him in perhaps his most comfortable state; his eyes shaded with honey brown aviator lenses, a grey woolen scarf draped about his neck and odd hiccup like body contortions echoing those of his music idol Scott Weiland.
With complimentary axeman Jeff Allen to his right, Knapp is a rolls through song after song; Allen’s guitar riding the equivalent of a pipeline wave to shore. His playing style is reminiscent of such greats as Joe Walsh, Jeff Beck and Slash. Technical playing is definitely the driving force behind his stage presence, focused deep into each note and following through on each chord with marked distortion through his “Cry Baby” pedal, Allen delivers on time – everytime. Not a overly physical player, Allen prefers a statuesque, towering reverend like stance over his pedal board – his hands masterfully working the pickups and holding court against each fret bar and he filters his way through each song.
Darren MacFayden provides the rhythm bass section, his unassuming stage presence a decieving mix of funk and technical finger playing. The rolling bass track tickles the low end of the sound board diving in and out of each ebb and flow chorus of each cover tune. Darren’s playing style pulls from many historical genres besides traditional rock n’ roll; you can pick up flavors of funk, soul, R & B and elemental punk along with traditional rock / pop influences in his playing style. Many bass players are too easily lost among “Freebird” like guitar solos and as such are easy replacements. Darren MacFayden is most certainly not in this category and is among a rare breed of bass player without whom the band would not find itself with the success they enjoy.
Ryan Schoults rounds out the four piece with his signature thunderous drumming to center and cement the band as a unified body before it’s audience. Behind an enormous colossus Yamaha kit, Schoults commands the utmost respect as a flurry of blurred hands meets skin in a mixed blend of precious anger and artistic expression. With sweat pouring from his brow and streaming across his face, Schoults eyes stinging his arms burning – he thunders through each song playing each pub show like a stadium show equivalent.
To see the elemental energy of Grave New World unleashed in a small local club is to be in a transformative mix of all of your favorite bands and memorable songs of your youth in one event. Grave New World opens a metaphorical door to your past and invites you beyond it’s threshold to experience even for a moment, a bried history in time where it seems our innocence has been checked and we return to what made the first memories. Grave New World is a force to be reckoned with and identifies clearly with only the music that can be performed well and truly honors the original artists; this is not an easy feat when performing such a wide variety of cover music. Their playing is exceptional – the selections memorable. . .step across and experience the Grave New World.