~reviewed by Kevin Filan
Bitter Fall's "Sweet Rise" induces altered states of consciousness: it gives the listener flashbacks of 1995. The grungy guitars, mumblemumbleSCREAM!!!mumblemumble vocals and metal-edged power chords are pure post-Cobain alternarock. I could see Bernard Kadosh, Greg Kowalczyk and company opening for an Alice in Chains/Soundgarden bill. This isn't to say that Bitter Fall is a bunch of alternaclones. They aren't just sounding the notes; rather, they've captured the melancholy power of stadium rock's twilight years.
This is no mean feat. Many of these mid-90s bands were derivative of earlier sources like Black Sabbath, Neil Young, and Nirvana. A band doing postgrunge today runs the risk of sounding like a pale copy of a pale copy. There's also the issue of timing: postgrunge is too dated to be "cutting edge," yet too recent to win nostalgia points. (Nothing is quite so old as last season's Big Thing). Bitter Fall pulls it off largely by sheer talent. Rockers like "One More Time" and "My Sweet Valentine" feature excellent guitar/synthesizer interplay and a fat synthesizer bass line to keep things moving along. Like the best postgrunge bands, they combine the raw power of garage rock with top-notch musical skills.
Bitter Fall makes extensive use of programming and sampling, but keep things from sounding either sterile or industrial. The sinister thrumming synthesizer/guitar riff underpins the crooned-whispered-shrieked vocals of "Butterflies and Black Skies" and serves as support, not focal point. The pacing is always brisk and never self-indulgent. Even a grinding power-chord workout like "Drown" keeps moving along, thanks to a nice sprinkling of distorted minor guitar chords and some rock-solid use of electronic drums. (That being said, I'd really like to see Bitter Fall onstage; Alex Marr's live percussion could very well crank these songs up several anthemic notches). Perhaps the only misfire is their cover of "People are Strange" which is faithful to the original, but doesn't really add anything to it.
Seven years ago, Bitter Fall would have been on the fast track to an MTV video. Seven years from now, they could well be at the forefront of bands doing the "90s sound." Right now they've released an interesting and hard-rocking disc which deserves a listen, and which leaves me looking forward to their next release.
Bitter Fall is:
1) One More Time
Bitter Fall Website
Hexagon Records Website