Seldom - 'Damaged'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be taking a peek at the band Seldom, a five-piece rock outfit from Houston, Texas. Their debut record, ‘Damaged,’ was successfully crowdfunded and was accompanied by a lengthy regional tour. Now, Seldom is already back in the studio hammering out their sophomore release. ‘Damaged’ is a very ambitious endeavor. Each of the nine tracks attempts to create emotional and varied landscapes across a variety of genre inspirations. The band claims to shift between powerhouse rock and punk and touching ballads with tact and ease. How does ‘Damaged’ stack up? 

As soon as you dig into ‘Damaged,’ you’re met with a familiar sound. ‘Legacy’ opens up the album with a driving rocker. Seldom occupies that mainstream space in between hard rock and metal. It has some of the instrumental intricacies of soft-metal, but its range stays within the realm of hard rock. (Think Rise Against.) ‘Awoke to Darkness’ has thundering percussion and a fantastic electric guitar riff that elevates itself into an intense rocker.

Lyrically, most of these tracks make ‘Damaged’ feel like a breakup record. ‘Cancer’ compares the subject to poison that gets under the vocalists skin, an unnecessary burden he’s desperate to shed. I like the sonic experimentation on ‘Cancer;’ it toys with fluctuating intensity and remains poignant at its lower, softer points. ‘Plastic Idols’ digs its teeth into the punk influence the band claims, elegantly combining it with the sound they establish earlier in the record with something much more akin to punk. It’s a dark, gritty song that feels angrier, which is actually a good thing. This is music they feel. It isn’t forced.

‘Over & Over’ is the first true ‘ballad’ of the album, a welcome sound after five tracks of demanding rock. The acoustic, atmospheric nature of this song is hauntingly beautiful, bringing the lead vocals and lyricism into the forefront. There’s even a bit of a simplistic string section, accentuating the emotional delivery of ‘Over & Over.’ It’s the strongest track of the first half of ‘Damaged,’ exhibiting exceptional songwriting and range.

At this point, it’s also worth touching on the production of this album. Perhaps as a result of funding via their Kickstarter, ‘Damaged’ sounds excellent. It wafted from my studio superbly throughout the two hours I spent with it. Listening to it on professional audio equipment was a very rewarding experience, something I can’t say for many acts I review. The cataclysmic nature of the end of ‘Over & Over’ blew me away on a quality sound system.

‘Watch Me Fall’ tricks the listener into believing they’re getting another ballad. The well performed acoustic guitar at the beginning of the tune is quickly abandoned for an earth-shattering track. I like the fusion of the two styles and the acoustic returns regularly as the song rises and falls. ‘Ozymandias’ is the most ‘metal’ of the nine tracks with hammering distortion and fast-paced bass. The instrumentation on ‘Damaged’ is noteworthy, too. The drummer in particular is quite a fantastic musician; these songs never miss a beat and he sits in the mix perfectly.

‘Wasting Away’ and the title track close out the album. The former track is somewhat unmemorable - it sounds too much like the rest of the record. The title track is eclectic, however, and feels like a culmination of the whole record’s journey. It has a sense of finality that the other tracks don’t, making it a suitable ending to ‘Damaged.’

‘Damaged’ is a very good record for what it is. Seldom doesn’t experiment too much with their sound - what you get on ‘Legacy’ is more or less what you’ll end up with nine tracks later. There are a few hidden gems like ‘Over & Over,’ though, that polish the record. With that said, it’s too long. Their sound feels repetitive after half a dozen tracks and each song is very similar to the last. Seldom would have been far better served by an EP of five or six tracks instead of nine. ‘Damaged’ is still an excellent effort very much worth your time; it just meanders a bit too much in a sound it gets too comfortable with. Hopefully that’s a kink that’ll be straightened out on ‘Black Mirror,’ their next endeavor.