Akron, Ohio’s own Elijah Black comes storming back after a noticeable absence on his new album, and his third solo album overall, Bad Dream. In that time a lot has changed, not only for us, but for him as well, and it shows in these new songs. His previous album, 2008’s Better Man was for the most part a somber, reflective album, which dealt with the heartache of losing his late partner. The bittersweet side of this is that one of its songs, “Smile For Me” was picked up for rotation on the Logo network (when it had more music programming at the time). This helped to expose his music to some new fans. Also, the song was featured in one of the more emotional moments in the movie Bear City. But that aside, Elijah has kept gigging and writing. According to Elijah in a Q&A I did with him, Bad Dream was actually started first, then put on hold to work on Better Man. But the track “Edge Of The World” was a promise of things to come. Bad Dream follows through on that promise with ten tracks of energetic, balls out, stomping hard rock. It may be a surprise to those who have only heard “Smile For Me”, as there aren’t any ballads here. This really is a natural successor to his first album Naked ‘Gainst the Blue Sky.
We start out, guns blazing with “Waiting”, a musical and lyrical face punch to negative people Elijah has encountered on his path to this moment. The music under the voice, mainly created by Elijah and producer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Cleary, is a force to be reckoned with. “Bullet” storms in next, with lyrics about overcoming negativity and adversity. Great vocals here, great guitar work, and overall great track. “Bad Dream” is next with a chunky riff and charged up beat about leaving the negative person in the song behind in the rearview mirror and moving on with life.
Next we have “420”. This one is driven by acoustic guitar, though still loud nonetheless. Here Elijah sings about reflecting with a favorite pastime. The breakdown in the middle with acoustic guitar vs a really funky bass part is really great here. “Dying To Feed It” packs a powerful punch and has some ripping guitars. Without the benefit of a lyric sheet, this one seems to be about people’s greed feeding the proverbial machine. This is one of my favorites here. It reminds me of some of my favorite harder rocking mid-90s bands.
If this album had a “side two”, it would be kicking off with one of the album’s biggest standouts and statements, “Dope Show”. No this isn’t a Marilyn Manson cover in case you’re wondering (because I did at first). This one tackles the subject of treating love and relationships equally for all people. This is terrain you’re not going to hear covered by too many hard rock acts, as a lot of it gets lost in pseudo-macho posturing. Great lyrics here like the refrain “heartache does not discriminate”, and the experience inside those lyrics makes this song the real deal and not something forced. And the music sounds somewhat like a long-lost classic session from Stone Temple Pearlgarden in Chains. I absolutely mean that in a good way.
“Itch” is where Elijah gets gritty with a song about carnal lust and desire, while rocking one of the toughest grooves on the album. I’d almost swear Zakk Wylde is an unlisted guest on this one. Elijah’s vocals are tough as nails here, but the bass, drums and guitar all rise to the occasion to match that intensity. “Happy” is sort of a counterpart to the previous song, with lyrics that seem to be about rediscovering the joys of loving again and the simple joys that another person can bring you to make you… well… happy.
“Last Call” is a hard-driving song that seems to be rallying against the idea of an artist lost in artifice, and the realization “Last call, I’ve seen it all.. you’re the biggest loser”. The appropriately titled last track, “In The End” is a heavy hitting slow churner with a big cinematic feel. This one is how your life and perspective changes when you meet the one person you destined to be with. Just like the lyrics say, the album has “brought us to this place” after Elijah has spent time rising above heartache, negativity and bad times and has been brought to a better place in the sun where the rest is now.. yes, just a bad dream.
It’s astounding to me that Elijah has not made it to a much wider status and audience, as the amount of talent here in the writing and performing is all top-notch. For music coming from and out and proud artist, this is not pigeonholed music by any means. The fact remains… someone who rocks this hard confuses closed-minded people who want to stereotype about what type of people should make what type of music, and that just means the world is opening their eyes just a little bit more than yesterday. I felt like a lot of hard rock left me behind and bored me and got whiny and watered down after an initial wave of great artists in the 90s were endlessly copied. This album is proof that when the emotions are real behind it, the music has an energy that rises above. It’s nice to feel that again.
Be sure to check out my “10 Questions with Elijah Black” interview about this album!
You can pick up the MP3 version of Elijah’s new album Bad Dream and hear previews HERE!
And here’s some videos of some great songs from his first two albums:
“Smile For Me”