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 shine our gaze on the Omaha, Nebraska based outfit, Sherry Drive, and their new record that was released on August 5. Entitled ‘Fly,’ the band’s explosive album is thirteen tracks of sheer intensity as the group maneuvers through what they describe as “heartfelt hard rock with metalcore influences.” Formed in 2012, the band certainly aren’t newcomers to the indie scene. So, how does their latest endeavor stack up? Let’s dig into it and find out.
Sherry Drive, I should preface, is a very unique scenario for me as a critic. As a musician and music lover, there are very few genres I don’t find affection for. I listen to mostly everything from classical music to hip hop. Once in a blue moon, though, something comes across my desk that I would likely never listen to recreationally. That’s Sherry Drive. Thus, I had to listen to ‘Fly’ three or four times through to discern a review. Even though ‘Fly’ may never find its way onto my own playlists, I have come to the consensus that it’s quite an excellent record - perhaps one of the strongest in its niche.
The inclusion of metalcore in Sherry Drive’s sound probably limits their appeal. As the opening track, ‘Illuminati,’ showcases, the lead vocals balance an elegant dance between traditional singing and screamo-esque stylings. The latter isn’t accessible for many listeners. I must say, however, that Sherry Drive executes it perfectly. They’ve struck a fantastic balance.
All of the songs on the album besides one were sung by Rusty Perry, the previous lead vocalist for Sherry Drive. Since the release of ‘Fly,’ Perry has amicably moved on and been replaced with Anu Ratzburg - the lead guitarist. ‘Fly’ is one hell of a swansong for Perry, with tracks like ‘Aegean Sea’ offering pretty dynamic vocal performances. In fact, that song even toys with some rap elements to great effect. (Think: Beastie Boys.)
By the time one reaches the title track of ‘Fly,’ it’s been made abundantly clear that the LP is a bombastic, cinematic one. Each of these songs offers a massive soundscape to the listener. In particular, ‘Checkmate’ is notable in this regard. It’s jam-packed with everything the band can muster - a sound reminiscent to early Queens of the Stone Age. (In fact, ‘IV’ also sounds like it could have been right off one of the first few Queens albums.)
As aforementioned, I spend a lot of time with this type of music professionally, but not recreationally. Thus, on one of my run-throughs of ‘Fly’ I brought a colleague into my studio who does appreciate this kind of music on a personal level. The atmospheric, bizarre ‘Narcolepsy’ was a hit. Its punkish nature and incredible ferocity is exactly what fans of this kind of music want - and it delivers in spades.
‘Andriod California’ is the halfway point for the record, and it’s an intriguing one. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, I’d argue, because it exudes prowess and chemistry. Sherry Drive seem completely in tune with one another on a deeply collaborative level, and because of that ‘Andriod California’ is a powerhouse rocker of remarkable proportions. ‘We Are,’ the following track, also does this, but in a very different way. ‘Andriod California’ feels like a very complete, organic presentation. ‘We Are’ is an exercise through vigor - it’s actually draining to listen to. At the same time, though, I suspect it’s absolutely uncontrollable in a live setting.
Touching on that, ‘Fly’ is an album that makes one statement above all: you should probably go see Sherry Drive live if you dig it. It’s like listening to ‘Born To Run.’ It was terrific in the studio, but the energy injected into it live makes it a borderline religious experience. Assuming Sherry Drive can work a stage to decent effect, I’d suspect their fans get really, really into their sound in a live setting.
Outside of that live setting, the production of ‘Fly’ is surprisingly excellent. There’s a whole lot happening in the landscape of each of these songs. Sherry Drive’s production manages to tame that beast, though, or at the very least, stop it from eating the zookeeper. (Who is the producer, I suppose? Yeah, that metaphor got away from me.) In any case, ‘Fly’ houses a whole bunch, from the epic pastures of ‘Illuminati’ and ‘Narcolepsy’ to the brick-through-your-window impact of tunes like ‘Andriod California’ and ‘We Are.’
‘This Far’ is likely the most digestible track of the bunch - the most accessible. It toys with pop sensibilities in the choruses, and actually evokes a bit of a classic rock vibe. ‘Blue Magick’ then switches gears again, aiming for another rap-infused presentation. It works, bordering Sherry Drive further into the territories of ‘rap rock.’ That, of course, is another niche - albeit one with increasingly popular over the last decade.
‘Take Me Back’ is also very ‘classic rock’ in its organization and composition. The percussion on it is absolutely fantastic. It’s thunderous, complex, and accented even further by some of the better lyricism on the album. Tracks like ‘Andriod California’ explored some peculiar territory in their lyrics; ‘Take Me Back’ feels more sublime and introspective. (Though I do wish the reverb was a bit lessened on the verses. It’s a bit too overboard.)
‘Learn’ is a brief insight into Ratzburg as the lead vocalist. He’s got a different flair to his vocals, but he’s a solid vocalist that exhibits a nice bit of range on the track. If the song is any indication of the band’s future work, Sherry Drive is in good hands. ‘Why’ follows, closing the album with a brooding, melancholy finale - one of the LP’s finest songs. (And one of its most restrained, to positive effect.)
Despite being the complete opposite of its target demographic, I found ‘Fly’ to be a surprisingly lovely experience. It’s just so well done with such conviction - one can’t help but admire it. On a professional level, I’d argue it’s performed, produced, and mastered with very high quality in mind. It’s actually a thirteen track album that doesn’t feel superfluous. The same can't be said for the vast majority of indie records of this length. Check it out on Spotify below!