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Infernal Overdrive
Last Rays Of The Dying Sun


Infernal Overdrive is:
Marc Schleicher: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Rich Miele: Guitar, Backing Vocals
Keith Schleicher: Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mike Bennett: Drums, Percussion

Recorded in the spring and fall of 2010 at Translator Audio, Brooklyn, NY.
Recorded and mixed by Andrew Schneider.
Produced by Andrew Schneider and Infernal Overdrive.
Additional vocals on Duel by Andrew Schneider.
Mastered by Chris Goosman, Basline Audio Labs Ann Arbor, MI
Album artwork and layout by Alexander von Wieding.
Live photos by Chris Devers.
Rocket Logo by Ian Adams.


Reviews for Last Rays Of The Dying Sun...

The Cutting Edge

Record Of The Month - June 2012

It’s always exciting to see an up-and-coming band we love and enjoy make it into the big leagues. After slogging it out in the Jersey bar circuit for several years now, our mates Infernal Overdrive deliver their first “official” release through Detroit’s Small Stone Records. Years ago the band were called Loud Earth, a throwback to Sabbath sludge and stoner heaven. The band dissolved after an impressive demo and later regrouped with a clear direction and all the right pieces to create the massive riff-o-rama that is Last Rays of the Dying Sun. The four-piece are Rich Miele (guitar), Mike Bennett (drums) and bonded by brothers Marc (guitar, vocals) and Keith Schleicher (bass). Three out of the four sing adding a layered texture to the vocals. Though this is the band’s “big label” debut, four of the album’s eight tracks have been around for a couple years. The songs are baked in southern ‘70s hard rock with catchy riffs and plenty of power rumbling in the pipes.

The disc was recorded at Translator Audio, Brooklyn, NY with producer Andrew Schneider (Throttlerod, The Brought Low, Hackman) and mastered in Ann Arbor, MI by Chris Goosman (Ted Nugent, Acid King, Dixie Witch). Fans of our site will immediately make the Small Stone connection and that’s exactly where the band belong as their vibe is defiantly Detroit retro. Take for instance “I-95” which opens the disc with a solid guitar wail and foot-stomping drumbeat. Tambourine is added for flavor but the song bellows like fellow Boston-natives Roadsaw, mixing biker thunder with a Pat Travers/Leslie West riff-fest. Second track, “The Edge” is pure old school Nugent, including the repeat riff and frantic, almost MC5 delivery. Schleicher voice is ragged and ready to rock. The drums hammer and the bass drives laying down a solid bed for some sexy solo leads. “Duel” has more Fu Manchu in the groove. It’s mostly in the chorus, but the build in the verse is still very Scott Hill/Brant Bjork. The track also boasts our favorite solo - frayed, not over played and sparked with cosmic energy.

What sounds like a live track, “Cage” continues the Fu Manchu adulation while launching into a pulverizing Kinks lick with a dash of Hendirx and Trower in the solo breaks. The drum and bass are huge in the mix with plenty of room to appreciate Miele’s guitar flash. Back on home turf is the rockin’ swagger of “Deported to Jersey” as the band return to loud guitars ready to “testify” to the masses. The middle break and subtle tempo change are classic power rock. “Electric Street Cred” comes alive in a wall of feedback frenzy while “Rip It Out” is Ace Frehley on steroids. “Motor” is a 13-minute stoner masterpiece. A heavy bottom end brings to mind Sabbath, Sasquatch and Mountain. The riff is clean but thick with a layered solo painting in all the little nuances - perfect for a psychedelic ride. The echo on the vocals adds to the song’s dripping mysticism while the guitar floats over the top. An awesome cover illustration by Alexander Von Wieding makes the whole thing complete.

- Todd K Smith

June 1st, 2012

Harmonic Distortion

Debut album of classic rock riffage from New Jersey's hard rocking quartet.

Having recently reviewed a couple of their releases for www.audioscribbler.co.uk, I've recently become an admirer of Small Stone Records, a record label that's based in Detroit, Michigan. Home to an ever growing roster of classic rock, hard rock, blues rock, metal, and stoner rock bands, they're purveyors of a sound that wouldn't cut it with your Shoreditch fashionista but has a loyal and discerning worldwide audience. Defiantly anti-fashion, it's a label that does what it likes and likes what it does.

I also like the label's tradition of fantasy fuelled album covers. Each illustrated cover harking back to hard rock's golden era, usually featuring some sort of mythical beast emerging from the earth, sky or sea to endanger the lives of your humble rock band and fan. The cover of Last Rays Of The Dying Sun, the debut album from New Jersey's Infernal Overdrive is no exception; a horned, winged, red-skinned monster/devil peers over a hillside, his fiery tongue merging with the road on which our hapless heroes travel along in their souped up automobile. The inside sleeve shows a burning road sign declaring it “Route 666”. Crikey! Shall we go for a ride then?

On first listen, the album and I don't exactly hit it off. The album's opener “I-95” is a fine enough song about hitting the road, named after the famous Jersey Turnpike. No gripes about the music but when anyone claims in song to “live on the edge”, as vocalist Marc Schleicher sings on the next track “The Edge”, I'm inclined to think they don't. Unless of course they're talking about the edge of a suburban housing estate. Once we get over that little disagreement the band's take on classic '70s rock begins to work its charms and I'm swung round into thinking it's actually a pretty decent record. Subtle it ain't, which is part of its appeal. Twin Les Paul guitar lines à la Thin Lizzy alternate with crunchy riffs over Bonham style drumming and soulful bass swagger. With their Orange amps cranked up to ten, they sound like the roadhouse band you always dreamed you'd stumble across should you ever get round to taking that USA coast to coast road trip.

Classic rock sometimes gets a bad rap, sneered at by trendies as out of date, old hat and unadventurous. Somehow that makes the anti-snob in me like this album and Small Stone Records more. After all, it's called classic rock for good reason. Perhaps as a homage to the band's musical roots there's a cover of Ace Frehley's 1978 track “Rip It Out” nestled in nicely among the band's original songs. Much like fellow modern day classicists The Darkness, they also seem to have a nice line in humour though some that is lost on my limey ears. If you want to get a sense of what the band is about check out the video for "Duel" below or better still download their opus album closer “Motor”, a thirteen minute bass driven, blues-rock tour de force.

- Duncan Fletcher

March 17th, 2012

Get Ready To Rock

Infernal Overdrive are a four piece fronted by Marc Schleicher (lead guitar/vocals) and they meld classic 70′s rock from the likes of Cactus, Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Oyster Cult and more modern bands like QOTSA and Soundgarden.

The band do get lumped in with the stoner rock bands, which for the most part is a key component of their sound but grab a listen to ‘The Edge’ and you’d swear it was BOC in their swaggering prime. ‘Cage’ is another groove filled rocker and they tear through a cover of Ace Frehley’s ‘Rip It Out’. All through the album the guitars keep up a series of classy solos and big, thick riffs. Quick mention to the drums played by Mike Bennett, who fits a couple of drum solos into songs and pounds the skins like a man possessed.

Highly enjoyable album and they deserve a place in the stoner rock fans collection plus those who like classic 70′s US rock from the likes of Grand Funk Railroad et al.


Jason Ritchie


Cosmic Lava

Hailing from Farmingdale, New Jersey, INFERNAL OVERDRIVE have no intention of changing the face of rock 'n' roll, but quite the opposite. Their debut album 'Last Rays Of The Dying Sun, released by Small Stone Records in 2012, bristles with a strong sense of tradition. Logically, INFERNAL OVERDRIVE draw influences from the golden era of hard rock and these were, of course, the 1970's. The double guitar attack of vocalist Marc Schleicher and Rich Miele truly delivers a fat and crispy sound, while the rhythm section, consisting of drummer Mike Bennett and bassist Keith Schleicher, lays down a solid foundation for the guitars.

Another strength of INFERNAL OVERDRIVE are the vocals that convince me with their casual naturality whilst simultaneously adding an emotional level to the songs. 'Last Rays Of The Dying Sun' has a very simple yet powerful production, with almost no discernible effects. But it isn't bland. It's savage in the intensity of its tone, which is hardly surprising because the album has been recorded and mixed by Andrew Schneider. The included eight songs are far from being spectacular although this does not mean that tedium prevails. Their strength lies in the grip and hooks - and there are many.

Moreover, the tracks do not follow a recurrent pattern. Just listen to the last tune 'Motor' that's clocking in at 13:44 minutes. Despite the excess length, it doesn't get boring. This is largely due to the amazing musicianship and the cool arrangement. I was particularly pleased also that INFERNAL OVERDRIVE have decided to do a cover version of Ace Frehley's 'Rip It Out'. To myself, as an old fan of 1970's KISS, it is knocking on an open door and fortunately they did a great job here. So, if you want a soulful old-school rock treat, I can imagine that you're gonna dig this album. As I said, INFERNAL OVERDRIVE aren't breaking any new ground and they wear their influences like orange prison jumpsuits, but they put it together into great, tight songs.

- KK

February 18th, 2012

The Big Takeover

Veteran rocker Marc Schleicher has abused amplifiers in Quintaine Americana and the criminally underrated Cracktorch – now he’s blasting away as leader of Infernal Overdrive. Last Rays of the Dying Sun, the New Jersey quartet’s debut LP, gleefully wallows in hard rock excess from the Me and Greed Decades, injecting some of the back alley vibe of the latter into the marijuana-saturated atmosphere of the former. Which is to say these cuts have more drive than your average stoner rock band, but more warmth than a 80s revival act – somewhere in the middle of Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, if you will. It all boils down, as it should, to riffs, and Schleicher and company rock the ones in “Duel,” “Cage” and “Deported to Jersey” into the ground. It’s anybody’s guess why “Motor” needs to be 14 minutes long, though it does give the band a chance to get psychedelic. Otherwise Infernal Overdrive keeps it concise and sharp, like a hunting knife. “Electric Street Cred” indeed.

- Michael Toland

February 2nd, 2012

Ear Munchies

Certainly I wouldn’t be the first person to say this, these guys have American 70s hard rock written all over them. There is no doubt this album was created with the mindset of a nice long journey in a sweet American made muscle car. I-95 opens the album and what a way to open it. A pure riff fest, like starting the engine of your 1970 Chevelle SS396, you know where this song is going to take you. Although it speaks of Carolina, it matters not if you’re from there. This is music made for anytime & anyplace, as long as you have your foot on the pedal, and you’re hammering your 350 HP Turbo-jet 396 V8 as hard as she will go. It captures the listener’s attention perfectly, setting you up for that long drive we all love to make, with the music crushing influencing our drive.

It gets even heavier and better as you continue through the album. The Edge is another hard driving boogie shaking noise maker. Damn, I may be easy to please, but these guitar solos just melt my ears. Nothing fancy, just the way I like ‘em, straight in your face. Duel starts off with a riff reminiscent of Blackfoot, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. The band picks pulls & chooses its influences well. Just perfect subtle hints of where their heads were and where they have been. Cage, Deported to Jersey & Electric Street Cred carry on with the same sweet riffs and power that you would have come to expect. Just really great, pure hard rock songs. No frills, no phony wannabe radio friendly cheap ass AM crap. I just can’t stop feeling the love for the 70s feel, with Electric Street Cred even including a short drum solo. Now that is some good shit. They just don’t make bands like this anymore.

Now we head into the stretch run, and what a way to end an album. Yes, I have also noticed a few Kiss riffs here and there, again subtle and twisted their own way. So it is no surprise that they cover one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite artists, Ace Frehley, Rip It Out. This begs for a Kiss cover album from Small Stone, as Infernal Overdrive tears this song up. A pleasure to hear, it sets up the album closer perfectly. Motor. A 13 minute hard rock beauty. A pure fuckin’ blast from the past, back when bands were allowed to do their own thing. To say I cannot get enough of this song is an understatement. The band perfectly sets you up with a slow yet deceiving delivery, with small doses of riffs, and then it explodes right open into a flame throwing rifftacular meltdown. All I can picture are the street lights blurred, cars left in trails while you’re speeding down the highway, with the Chevelle pulling as much as it can out of its 350 Turbo-jet engine. One of the best closing songs I have heard in a very long time.

As its first release of 2012, Small Stone has set the bar high, not only for its own releases that are coming, but for other bands & labels. If you like your music with a perfect touch of 70s hard rock, then you will do no wrong in getting this. It’s like getting your ass handed to you, except you invite it and accept it. Of note, my only complaint is that it was recorded in 2010. Can we get a new release soon? The more from them, the better.

~William Bissonette

January 31st, 2012

All Music

Infernal Overdrive's first album, Last Rays of the Dying Sun, may be a pun of Jimi Hendrix's posthumous collections (First Rays of the New Rising Sun), yet its lyrics curiously read like a twisted travelog through New-fookin'-Joisey…and what a morbid road trip it can be, too. Jersey is in fact very clean, quite beautiful, even idyllic in places, but it can also be rather filthy, stinky, and downright weird; its road signs are so poorly placed and contradictory, it almost seems as though the unseen agents behind that weirdness are trying to lure you off the main roads toward whatever lurks beyond the thickets and in the murky swamps. Suffice to say that Boston native and Infernal Overdrive frontman Marc Schleicher (also of Cracktorch, Antler, and others) counts himself amongst those captured by the Garden State's proverbial venus flytrap (and locked into a late-‘70s time warp of some kind, to boot), so it appears to be his lot in life to wax poetic about the experience on the likes of "I-95" (named after the Jersey Turnpike) and the sardonic "Deported to Jersey." Funny thing is, Schleicher's smooth voice is way too civil and contained to properly convey his home state's wacky frame of mind, which may explain why "Cage" actually sounds like a mild-mannered rewrite of Pearl Jam's "Animal," and there's more bark than bite to the band's pedestrian cover of Ace Frehley's "Rip It Out." OK, so this road trip isn't without its fair share of memorable, pulse-accelerating hazards, as evidenced by the steaming hot guitar licks of "The Edge," the harmony-encrusted tire grooves of "Duel," and the mesmerizing cruise control established by "Motor" over 14 minutes of blues riff perfection. But an unqualified retro-rock tour de force it most certainly is not, so one can only expect that Infernal Overdrive will build upon its positive attributes (and manage to get the hell out of Jersey) on their next album.

- Eduardo Rivadavia

January 23rd, 2012

Heavy Planet


Alright...before we go any further, I need you to do me a favor. Run to the fridge and grab yourself a cold one...I'll wait right here.

Okay, you ready? Good. Now take a big gulp out of that can of suds and listen closely. I've found the fountain of youth. No shit...I got it right here. It's called Infernal Overdrive. You interested in something like that? Yeah I thought you might be. You see, these boys from Red Bank, New Jersey have found a way to conjure the spirits from rock & roll's glory daze. You know...bands like Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and AC/DC? You remember those times don't you? I'm sure it's a little foggy, but that's okay. I'm talking about the 70's and 80's, a time when rock music was all about excess...it was dangerous...it got you laid...and dammit, it was fucking fun!

Fast forward to 2012 and let that familiar feeling wash over you once again. Just listen to the bluesy raunch of Rich Miele's guitar on the opening track of Infernal Overdrive's Last Rays of the Dying Sun. Or better yet, check out Marc Schleicher's vocals as he summons the spirit of the late Ronnie Van Zant as he sings "heading down the road...feel like I'm losing my mind." And when his brother, bassist Keith Schleicher joins he and Rich in the harmonized chorus of "moving on again" you'll think you've died and gone to 1975.

Hell, the guitars on track two, "The Edge", shoot out of the gates fast enough to make even Angus Young start sweating. And speaking of guitars, I hope you like 'em, cuz you're gonna get an ear full of 'em. You see Marc's not only the singer, he plays a mean axe as well and between he and Rich...well they'll cram a solo anywhere they damn well feel like it. You're gonna love it when these dudes harmonize the chorus..."I live, I live, I live on the edge" and then Marc gets all smartass with "I'm gonna fall" and the song erupts into a gnarly solo...yeah that's right, gnarly.

"Duel" starts off with a nice beat from drummer Mike Bennett and seems like it's headed for more classic rock territory, but then Infernal Overdrive throws a curve ball as they introduce a bit of stoner rock groove, making the song sound something like Lynyrd Skynyrd fighting off Grendel, Snowman. "Cage" sees the band continuing to expand on their signature mix of loose improvisation with tight, heavy riffage. Only here they pull out all the stops by throwing in little tricks of the trade...like a quick guitar flourish between verses...or shouts of "alright" and "uh huh"...or my personal favorite...hand claps...hand claps people!

"Deported to Jersey" keeps the mood light and the music dirty...damn I bet these guys are fantastic live! This bluesy romp rollicks along for three and a half minutes before shifting into a completely different chord progression accompanied by a sing-a-long of "I need your love...get you on my side" and finally ending with an old school fade and return. Seriously, when is the last time you heard a song fade out and then come back in mid-chorus...1987? Nice!

"Electric Street Cred" (best song title ever) is Infernal Overdrive showing that they don't have to sound retro to write a killer rock song. This one is a straight up monstrosity of riffs layered on top of more riffs and it features an incredibly catchy, echoed vocal effect and...wait for it...a fucking drum solo shoved right into its ass end! Yeah that's right, after all the guitar wankery on display for the first three quarters of Last Rays of the Dying Sun, Bennett finally gets an opportunity to showcase his skills behind the kit.

The album's final two songs are polar opposites, but two of its strongest nonetheless. First comes a cover of Ace Frehley's "Rip It Out" that will make you forget you're not actually listening to KISS. Honestly, Marc Schleicher is such a dead ringer for Gene Simmons on this one, it's kinda scary. And the last song sees the band shift back into stoner rock mode as they settle in for the long haul. "Motor" is a hazy, groovy, psychedelic jam session that rolls along for almost 15 minutes and calls to mind everything from Kyuss to the Jimi Hendrix Experience to Soundgarden all in the span of the same song. Between you and me, this one alone is worth the price of admission.

So by now you should have a pretty good feeling of what you're in for with Infernal Overdrive. Last Rays of the Dying Sun hearkens back to the 70's and 80's heyday of unapologetic, guitar driven, blues inflected, rawk & roll. They're not out to solve the world's problems and they sure as hell can't fix yours. But what they can offer is an escape...an escape from the everyday doldrums and a sonic journey to someplace where you can get away...someplace where you can rock & roll all night and party everyday. If you can remember when music was like that...or if you're too young and you only wish you could...then I encourage you to come along on this ride because you will not be disappointed.

- Toby

January 14th, 2012


The infallibility of Small Stone was starting to get tested with a few of their later releases. Dixie Witch's “Let's Roll” was good but far from the bone-shaking assault of their past recordings. Same could be said for the latest Freedom Hawk release.

I was missing, somehow, that sort of sound that Small Stone seemed to pick up so well and flawlessly: that riff oriented heavy rock where all songs are amazing and there are no fillers. Made my wish, and here it is: the newest Infernal Overdrive, is Santa's gift to the classic heavy boogie lovers between you, to all of you that love bluesy dirty riffs, simple but hyper catchy tunes and vocals that are powerful and yet irresistible.

Theres nothing new or groundbreaking on this album, but who cares about that, honestly?

What you get in SPADES is that Riff 'n' Roll rooted in the tradition of early Grand Funk, Cactus, Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin, with hints of the modern take on riff-laden badassness of Roadsaw or Gozu. The tunes roll on and kick ass. The riffs are greasy but classy and there's plenty of classic touches to give the whole album a retro feel, like handclaping, vocal harmonies, and such.

Add to that a great songwriting and a powerful yet raw production and you got one of my personal genre winners of the year, next to the great “Momantha” from Backwoods Payback.....8/10

Words: Andrea Contanzo

December 15th, 2011

The Sleeping Shaman

OK, how many awesome albums are there out there that have truly awful covers? Plenty…Flotsam And Jetsam “Doomsday For The Deceiver”, Aerosmith’s self titled debut, Anthrax, “Fistful Of Metal”, Black Sabbath “Born Again” (yes it is an awesome album!!!) to name a few. Don’t be put off by the awful 80’s thrash type sleeve that adorns this release as within the horror lurks a damn fine ass kicking album the like of which Small Stone have excelled in putting out for over a decade now.

It is fair to say that Small Stone have confounded our expectations a few times lately with some excellent yet uncharacteristic albums but alongside Roadsaw and Dixie Witch it seems the guys are back on track with Infernal Overdrive’s brand of hard rocking, hard drinking old school boogie rock and roll. Opening track “I-95” is a slinky Blackfoot style groover while follow up track “The Edge” stamps its foot to the floor with equal parts vintage Ted Nugent and Van Halen when they still had a fearsome set of cojones!!!! “Duel” rocks along on a riff that’s imported from the heart of the Deep South and a beat that wouldn’t be out of place on an old Motown rabble rouser.

This whole album exudes a seductive, smoky vintage vibe, check out those guitars, do I detect the smell of some old school burning Marshall valves? This is the sound that gave UFO and The Scorpions their edge in the 70’s and give Infernal Overdrive a level of authenticity that few bands achieve. These guys aren’t all about the heavy, they’re all about the good time, the beer and the chicks…like some backwoods forgotten cousins of Montrose and Kiss. When vocalist Marc Schleicher asks “Can I be your little animal” on Cage you almost expect Paul Stanley to be nodding his approval in the background…in full make up and stack heels!!! As the band powers through a wah wah ridden, amphetamine driven freak out you may question if these guys have heard any music made within the last 30 years!!!

Infernal Overdrive break out their inner Molly Hatchet with the killer boogie of “Deported To Jersey” which is given an irresistible lift by the spot on harmonies not to mention the fantastic tension build up and release during the mid section. The closing minute and a half of this track is as good as anything else you will hear this year or next…yet Infernal Overdrive are able to tag this on as an outro…that should tell you something!!! On “Electric Street Cred” the band retain their tough, edgy sound but imbue it with a little more texture and layering through the guitars and subtle use of keyboards to show that there is more to these guys than simple, dumb rock and roll. The fact that they include a drum solo half way through without any hint of irony shows they’re not afraid to put their balls on the line and also that they have no regard for the modern constraints that make so much modern music lifeless and sterile!!!

Infernal Overdrive truly wear their hearts on their sleeves with a cover of Ace Frehley’s “Rip It Out” from his 1978 solo album. Forget those other two preening ponces in Kiss, Ace was the man with the burning rock and roll heart and Infernal Overdrive are all too aware of this. It is a decent version but I can’t help but think all this has going for it over Infernal Overdrive’s own compositions is familiarity. In all honesty this is quite possibly the weakest song on the album…and I mean song, not performance. Step aside Ace, Infernal Overdrive don’t really need your help but maybe you could drop them a letter to thank them for the royalties!!!!

After seven pocket sized nuggets of solid gold rock and roll the band roll up their sleeves and flex their guns on the closing track “Motor”. At over 13 minutes this does, I believe, qualify for the term “epic”. In true southern rock style the band have saved their piece de resistance for last as the track swings from a laid back verse to a big assed chorus to unison lead playing and sub psychedelic tones. When it works, this track really works, it works as well as anything else on the album but its attempts at grandiosity are also the thing that cause the only small dip on an otherwise excellent album.

Slated for a release in early 2012 it’s clear that Small Stone are showing no signs of resting on their laurels just yet and with a new Sun Gods In Exile album to look forward to it’s clear that rock and roll is back with its feet firmly under the Small Stone table.

- Ollie Stygall

December 20th, 2011

Broken Beard

Discovering that Boston hero* Marc Schleicher has surfaced as the front man for New Jersey rock n’ road warriors Infernal Overdrive is one hell of an early Christmas present, my friends. Hell, I’m not sure I’d be here today if it wasn’t for Schleicher’s brawlin’ brand of East Coast riff n’ roll, so to hear him once again stranglin’ the six-string like a twenty dollar hooker is something special; a sure sign that the wheel of the American rawk machine is back in the grip of one of its most prolific drivers. Last Rays of the Dying Sun, the band’s full-length debut, is, quite simply, arena rock for dive bars, like KISS or Cheap Trick on a chain link tour through Southern wilds, and the way they saturate it with razor-backed hooks, sky high solos, nasty drum fills, and blacktop lingo (“I-95,” “Electric Street Cred,” “Rip It Out,” “Motor”) will lead a man to submit himself to a life of drinkin’, cheatin’, lyin’, and dyin’. Or, if you prefer, a life of glory. You know, I don’t think this one actually comes out until 2012, but either way, Small Stone has finished this year off — or started the next — on a definite high note.

*I’m not from Boston, but I have spent many years there vicariously through people much cooler than me, and I would be utterly shocked to find out that anyone who played in Cracktorch, Antler, and Quintain Americana isn’t a hero in that town.

- Jeff Warren

December 3rd, 2011

The Obelisk

When I reviewed the self-titled demo from South Jersey non-retro heavy rock classicists Infernal Overdrive last year, the first thing that came to my mind about the songs was that they sounded tailor made for Small Stone Records. The four cuts included on Infernal Overdrive were riffy but not definitively stoner, Southern but not just Southern, and always with an eye toward ‘70s rock landmarks like Cactus, Free and Grand Funk Railroad. Maybe more than one eye, in fact. Either way, it worked out. Small Stone picked up the band for the Feb. 28, 2012, release of their first full-length, Last Rays of the Dying Sun, and as the title might suggest, classic rock references abound. Jimi Hendrix, whose posthumous First Rays of the New Rising Sun came out in 1997, is among them, obviously, but there are depths of style to which Infernal Overdrive dig that result in a mix more directly their own. In addition, guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher draws on his experience in Boston Southern rock acts Quintaine Americana and Antler (the latter also Small Stone alumnae) to add a modern feel to the classic ethic, and coupled with the dual-guitar antics of Schleicher and lead axe-handler Rich Miele and a well-utilized knack for injecting memorable choruses with distinct personality, the result is a blend across these eight tracks (even the fact that there are eight tracks on the album feels like a reference to the ‘70s) that’s familiar within the scope of American heavy rock, but not as easily pinned down beyond that to any single band. Nonetheless, much like the demo, Last Rays of the Dying Sun is right at home within Small Stone’s milieu, other Northeastern acts like The Brought Low and Roadsaw making fine enough comparison points to establish some idea of what Infernal Overdrive are working with stylistically.

The band returned to Andrew Schneider (Throttlerod, The Brought Low, partner in Coextinction Recordings) to record the full-length, and with what he was able to bring out of them on the demo, it’s no surprise. It’s easy to view Last Rays of the Dying Sun as an extension of their previous outing, both sonically and in terms of content. All four songs from Infernal Overdrive show up on side A of Last Rays of the Dying Sun, and in three-fourths the same order as they appeared before, opening with “I-95” and moving into “The Edge” and “Duel.” The longer “Motor,” which was 12 minutes on the demo and approaching 14 here, keeps its position as the closer, so in a way, that’s the same as well, but there are four other tracks between “Duel” and it that comprise the previously-unheard portion of the record. Both the newer and older material though sound crisp and fluid (Chris Goosman mastered), the shorter “I-95” and “The Edge” setting the tone quickly with unpretentious shuffle and Miele’s smooth leads, and stating in certain terms the rock ethic to be expanded on as the album progresses with songs like “Cage” and “Electric Street Cred.” “I-95” is no less engaging as an opener than it was on the demo, and Mike Bennett’s drumming (probably the most direct beneficiary of Schneider’s production; the guy just knows how to mic drums) and Keith Schleicher’s bass allow the guitars a solid foundation on which to speed up the motoring riff of “The Edge,” setting up the hooky chorus with a well-honed casual air, like it’s just the way it goes, man.

That sense of casualness – it’s not exactly laid back, but has a pack of cigarettes rolled up its sleeve and at least one hole in its jeans – adds a lot of the charm to what Infernal Overdrive are doing musically, which is neither lazy nor unstudied. Wails and one of Last Rays of the Dying Sun’s several big rock finishes cap “The Edge,” as if to highlight the idea that no one is taking themselves to seriously, and “Duel” commences with what can only be the basis for the song’s title in the interplay between Schleicher and Miele’s guitars. Bennett’s drums stomp and the bass walks in lock step with the guitar for the verses, but ultimately steps back to give the soloing room to breathe, and handclaps, tambourine and some guest vocals from Schneider in the final chorus give a party atmosphere to the ensuing and somewhat predictable conclusion, and following a quiet intro, “Cage” keeps the momentum going with thicker-sounding guitar, more claps and plenty of “mm-hmm” and “alright” peppering from Schleicher. The vibe of “Cage” is more modern, but the chorus asking the question “Can I be your little animal?” is all classic rock and a pretty good example on the grander scale of the way Infernal Overdrive mix the modern with the big-engine ‘70s. It’s something of a comedown after “Duel,” but “Cage” picks up at the end with some righteous solo work and Keith’s most impressive bassline underneath. Three big rock finishes in a row might seem ballsy, but it’s nothing in comparison to the fade-out/fade-back of highlight cut “Deported to Jersey,” which ends side A with a preview of what “Motor” will later do for the album as a whole, working deft riffing, skillfully arranged vocals and unashamed catchiness into the first four minutes before the fadeout starts. They go all the way to silence and rest there for a couple seconds before coming back to wrap in what can increasingly be thought of as the standard fashion for Last Rays of the Dying Sun.

“Deported to Jersey” takes a step back from the complex vocal arrangements and finds Marc layering a chorus on his own (there are some well-placed backwards loops in there too). They probably could just as easily had Keith or Miele offer support in backing vocals, but the change does well to shift the expectation for Infernal Overdrive, and anyway, with the intricate riffing and precision placement of the notes, both guitars and the bass should be plenty busy. Ditto that for Bennett, who takes a drum solo at 3:14 that and works quickly to impress with it, maintaining the beat and groove of the song while also embarking on a tom and cymbal freakout worthy of the space compression it gets. A seamless transition beings the verse and chorus back to close out and Infernal Overdrive revert back to a shorter-song approach with the Ace Frehley cover “Rip it Out,” which appeared as the opener of the Kiss guitarist’s 1978 solo album. It’s a good fit for Last Rays of the Dying Sun, with its “woman done wrong” lyrical sensibility and pop appeal, and Marc roughs up his vocals a bit during the verse to match Frehley’s approach without sounding like he’s trying to do an impression, setting up “Motor” to finish the record with its more expansive (musically and temporally) feel. There are some psychedelic elements in the guitar in the beginning, but Infernal Overdrive keep their straightforward methods in line, however much echo might be added to the lead guitar, and when Marc and Rich meet up for some NWOBHM-style runs, it’s not so much a surprise as a rush of energy.

That stretch of harmonic chicanery paves the way for the verse to return and gradually unfold into an extended jam that accounts for most of “Motor”’s extra runtime as compares to the other songs on Last Rays of the Dying Sun. Solos are taken as the rhythm is maintained, and gradually, extra percussion is brought in to add to the suddenly subdued feel of the song. It’s not an easy task for Infernal Overdrive to cut the energy level with about five of the record’s total 46 minutes left – one almost can’t let go of the momentum brought on by the material preceding – but the jam brings the album down gradually, sleepily, before building it up again. It’s a wonder Bennett’s cymbals lived to tell the tale, and as they fade to windy noise after 11 minutes, they do so perhaps having cut the payoff a little short, leaving room for the sampled speech a minute and a half later to lead the way for (what else?) a big rock ending. Not as big as they do it live, but grand nonetheless. And when they’re done this time, they’re really done. Perhaps the relative lack of ceremony – thinking of the end of “Duel” or “The Edge” – is meant to suggest that the party’s over, that the ceremony has already happened and that there’s nothing more to do but pack up and go home. Fair enough if that’s the case; Infernal Overdrive have already wrought enough raucous rock destruction to account for a two-day hangover, but sue me for wanting more anyway. If nothing else, that should probably speak to the level of asskickery Last Rays of the Dying Sun attains. As a debut, it will no doubt impress among the converted, and as Small Stone’s first release of 2012, it shows the label continuing its leadership role among American heavy rock imprints. Now if only we can get another Halfway to Gone record, I’ll stop bitching about there being no rock in New Jersey.

- H.P. Taskmaster

November 29th, 2011

Flight Of Pegasus (Greece)

Those who know the company profile for which albums the band from New Jersey you can be sure that it is a good choice. The quartet specializes in a heavy rock which supports a number in the history of Free and Grand Funk but loxokoitaei and Soundgarden - and those deep bore evidence of the cruel tradition. Play properly measured, it sounds exaggerated or showy. It's another good musical shape of characters, which you may like just because it tries to project an image that represents the. The music flows nicely, that governs the severity that occurs in people who know what they are doing and why. The vocals are what we need, the guitars and the rhythms also supportive of style. We proposed and should be considered sure to appreciate positively the honest frankness. (translated from Greek)

Όσοι γνωρίζετε το προφίλ της εταιρείας για την οποία δισκογραφεί το συγκρότημα από το Νιού Τζέρσεϋ μπορείτε να είστε σίγουροι πως πρόκειται για μια καλή επιλογή. Το κουαρτέτο ειδικεύεται σε ένα heavy rock που στηρίζει αρκετά στην ιστορία των Free και Grand Funk αλλά λοξοκοιτάει και τους Soundgarden - καθώς και εκείνοι κατά βάθος έφεραν στοιχεία της σκληρής παράδοσης. Παίζουν σωστά και μετρημένα, δεν ακούγονται υπερβολικοί ή επιδεικτικοί. Είναι άλλο ένα σχήμα καλών μουσικών χαρακτήρων, το οποίο μπορείτε να συμπαθήσετε ακριβώς επειδή δεν προσπαθεί να προβάλλει μια εικόνα που δεν το αντιπροσωπεύει. Η μουσική τους ρέει ωραία, τους διέπει εκείνη η σοβαρότητα που απαντάται σε όσους ξέρουν τι κάνουν και γιατί. Τα φωνητικά είναι αυτά που πρέπει, οι κιθάρες επίσης και οι ρυθμοί υποστηρικτικοί του ύφους. Σας προτείνονται και θα πρέπει να θεωρείται σίγουρο ότι θα εκτιμήσετε θετικά την ειλικρινή ευθύτητά τους.

- George Politopoulos

November 27th, 2011

The Soda Shop

Do you like southern rock? How about heavy guitar driven rock? Are you a fan of Roadsaw, Dixie Witch and/or Gozu? Well here’s something you DON’T want to miss. New Jersey’s own Infernal Overdrive have been around for a few years now and have released one 4 track self titled EP. The band is going to begin 2012 right by releasing their first full length on Small Stone Records. The album, Last Rays of the Dying Sun, is a combination of the 4 track EP as well as new material making it’s debut just for this album. I proudly own a copy of the EP and my one gripe is that it was to short. Despite “Motor” being over 13 minutes long, I wanted more. Well now I got my wish.

The whole album is full of some great sounding guitar riffs, catchy hooks, awesome vocals and lyrics and awesome drumming.”Cage” (which can be heard below) features a killer beat and some of the best guitar playing I’ve heard in a while. “Electric Street Cred” is one fucking masterpiece of a song with an awesome drum solo by highly underrated drummer Mike Bennett. It’s really hard to pinpoint one good song on here as they’re all equally good. Excellent actually.

Last Rays of the Dying Sun is already up on my personal list of top albums of 2012 and it’s still 2011. It features everything I come to expect from a Small Stones Records release. It’s catchy, heavy and sounds great. The album is due out 2/28/2012 on Small Stone Records. Knowing them though, you’ll be bale to get it sooner through the store or iTunes. Don’t pass this one up.

November 23rd, 2011

Album Tracks

  1. I-95
  2. The Edge
  3. Duel
  4. Cage
  5. Deported to Jersey
  6. Electric Street Cred
  7. Rip It Out
  8. Motor

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