(Quick shoutout to Nick, I think you’ll like this one).
The Ongoing Concept is a new band that seems to be flying under the radar right now (I can only find two reviews). As the title of the album indicates this is somehow saloon or “piano bar” influenced metal. But to say that it is merely this would be very disingenuous. The overarching style is a blues or southern-style rock. One might say they do with bluegrass what Unexpect does with circus music.
Back in the day when I was really into indie-rock The Black Keys were gaining popularity. People kept telling me that it was the greatest thing ever that a band was successfully merging Americana/southern roots music with indie rock. I just never could get into them and couldn’t understand what was so great about it. Now that I’ve heard The Ongoing Concept, I think I get it.
The first time through this album I was dumbfounded as song after song proved to me how effective such a style can be. Blues is all about feeling it. If you don’t feel it, then you aren’t going to get it. It just makes sense if you want people to feel something, then combine it with a heavy, hardcore sound. This allows you to just let it all out. You aren’t bound by the conventions of more restrained styles.
The songs span everything you can think within this style from a classic blues rock with clean vocals, to screaming hardcore with a banjo picking background, to power ballad, to hand clapping folk song, to mathcore. One of my favorite things they do is craft their heavy breakdowns through a half-time feel. It is a sort of old-school effect, but I’m all about bringing it back.
I’ve seen some people comment that the idea is just a gimmick. I can’t buy this. When you write a full album united by this style, then it is just the style of the album. It is a style that has a huge amount of room for growth and development too. It isn’t just some strange attempt to draw people in through the novelty. I would love to see an industry build up around this concept. It is ripe for exploration, and I love it.
I can’t say only good things, though. The first 3/4 of this album is excellent. I even enjoy the piano ballad. But then the style of the album is sort of lost for a couple of songs. They try to go pure metal and get a sort of Born of Osiris sound with some keyboard tinkering. For example, they try to maintain a gospel feel on “Failures & Fakes” by using an organ, but the overall feel, chord progression, speed, and basically everything else just makes it feel like a rock song with a little organ here and there.
These songs aren’t bad. I could take or leave them. It just feels a little odd and out of place (especially the BoO one). The second to last track is almost pure mathcore. But then the goodness comes back for the last song. I would have liked to see this band sit on these few songs and use them on another album where they might fit better and develop something more in the spirit of the style for this album. I don’t think this a huge deal or problem for the album, though.
Overall, I love what this album is doing and can’t wait to see what they bring us next. I’ll give it 8.5/10. For the sample, this isn’t the heaviest or even my favorite song off the album, but I think it illustrates a bunch of concepts from the review well. It has banjo, it has the blues riffs in the guitar, it has the half-time breakdown, and it has both fun/lighter sections and metal sections.
This is the official music video so there is some extra stuff at the beginning. Skip to 1:29 for the song. Honestly the lyrics of this one make me cringe a little. I can’t tell why. Maybe the irony of writing lyrics that seem so cliche about being original? Maybe because it is like they wrote the song to justify to the listener the use of the banjo or to have a readymade argument against people who don’t like it?