On Top: Top Heavy

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On Top: Top Heavy
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On Top: Top Heavy
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Horror Pain Gore Death Productions
November 15th, 2011
Release length: 46:54
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The Pennsylvania group On Top performs a mixture of old school Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, the kind you might expect to hear on the radio during the eighties, but with a heavier edge behind it to make it less mainstream friendly. However, the lyrical concepts are about the same for the era, consisting mostly of sleaze and relationship issues. With a very poor reception to their 2009 demo recording, and their following self-titled EP, the group has their work cut out for them. Signed to Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, a label better known for their releases from the Death Metal underground throughout Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas, they present their debut full-length album, Top Heavy, to a crowd that may very well just not want it. Will this be enough to solidify them as a band worth paying attention to, or will it be another effort that many would rather just brush under the rug and forget about?

On the technical aspect, On Top sounds pretty good, but a little too clean. The digital production value comes off more like a modern Megadeth recording, but a little toned down and thin. The guitars have a decent hevier distortion at work that ranges from mid to low levels, feeding more into the Hard Rock laced with Punk environment at times. The bass is nice as well, offering a grounding output that gives it a little extra bite, though not really all that deep, going for a twanging sound more than anything else. The drums are captured nicely with a strong presence from the cymbals, which are mixed well against the thicker snares and the subtle click of the bass kickis that is just loud enough to be heard. The vocals are a little louder than the guitars, and handled in a cleaner manner with plenty of enthusiasm behind them. The energy isn’t restricted to them either, as you can easily pick up on it from the instruments as well, even if the material itself isn’t the most engaging to your neck muscles.

And that becomes the main problem for On Top. While the band isn’t really bad, the material suffers from the highly crisp production, somewhat sterilizing the bite from the rather typical Hard Rock chords. This doesn’t mean it’s bad though, as there are still some cuts on the recording that are pretty memorable in the long run. “Sick and Tired” is rather catchy with some extra speed in the mix. Thanks to it, the energy is stronger, allowing the frustration of the song’s lyrics and concept to come through well, especially in the vocals, weaving a song anyone who is or was in a relationship with someone they couldn’t stand anymore could relate to. “Fire Down Below” is pretty catchy too, though the chorus just ends up horribly simple, generic, and even toned down compared to the heavier mid-tempo material that does stick out. “Too Much” is a surprising offering, closing things out well with over six minutes of thinner material, but the energy really pushes it along. The music is full of infectious hooks and there’s never a moment you’ll feel as though it’s padded out with useless material just to make it a longer song. Again, the attitude comes into play, but this time working into a dirtier teenage rebellion that perfectly suits the feel-good party anthem tone of the song.

But then, you do get some rather bland cuts here and there. “Another Night of Sleaze” really isn’t the most attractive of the songs here, but it’s largely thanks to the dirtier tone the music is going for that the clean production doesn’t allow. It leads to a somewhat slower and toned down song that just comes off boring until the really impressive guitar solo kicks in, leading to a stronger two-step closing that you’ll wish made up more of the track. Aside the speed, the same goes for “Hot N Wet,” though the chorus does have potential that the incredibly simple lyrics fail to capitalize on. Aside that kind of gripe, there’s also a good deal of familiar territory throughout, such as “Success and Excess” sounding like a rehashed version of “Sick and Tired” but with some good hooks here and there to make it enjoyable enough, but not really too unique.

There’s been a lot of negative feedback to On Top since their demo recording, and in many ways some of it is justified. However, the band is far from a bad group, and the potential is on display throughout Top Heavy. While the music and lyrical content has been played out for a good while now, and this album isn’t really going to spark a slew of bands trying to capture that smuttier side of eighties Rock and Metal, this one still throws some good tunes your way despite the lacking urge to even bob your head along for most, if not nearly all of the album. This isn’t necessarily the band’s fault, but rather the production and audio quality sterilizing the material more than it should have. But, at the end of the day, this is nothing more than a fun Metal party soundtrack. On Top isn’t an album for everyone, but it’s worth giving a spin for the better tracks, or at least sampling in order to find the ones that truly stick out to you.

01. Top Heavy – 0:44
02. Into the Night – 5:34
03. Sleepless – 2:58
04. Sick and Tired – 4:39
05. Another Night of Sleaze – 5:02
06. Die High – 4:13
07. Fire Down Below – 5:47
08. Hot N Wet – 2:26
09. Success and Excess – 4:14
10. Up to No Good – 4:28
11. Too Much – 6:43
Overall Score: 5.5/10
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Digital review copy of this release provided by Horror Pain Gore Death Productions via Clawhammer PR.