Positivity and rock aren’t an immediate combination to most people, but don’t tell Michael Addison that. His new album Blinding Shadows is surrounded by constant, implicit darkness, but remains eternally hopeful and determined to make things change. Addison believes in it, and with an album with this much energy, you might, too.
Blinding Shadows is a straight ahead rock record. But instead of aping the “old school” hard rock and roll, Addison’s created something distinctly modern with the help of Ryan Hoyle (of Collective Soul), Christine Wu (Usher/Justin Timberlake), and Adam Brooks (The Good Mad): the guitars are pushed up front and distorted, and the dynamic rhythm section guides the songs through what could be cumbersome transitions (“Never Look Back” jumps to mind). Also pulling in the album’s favor is the production, which is just polished enough to sound big without taking any bite out of the music.
And for the most part, Blinding Shadows doesn’t stray from the 90’s and now rock format that it opens with. The uniformity strengthens Addison’s sound, but makes the songs bleed together somewhat. The album’s “default” mode is open with a plucked riff, have the band kick in, keep somewhere around mid-tempo, and play your heart out. After spending the chunk of the album playing out to the cheap seats with big swinging singles “Alone” and “Go”, “All Your Might” is welcomed quieter number featuring acoustic guitar and violin, as well as the electric guitar that breaks into hushed distortion at the chorus (and a bright solo). The song has a solid melody as well. After this moment of quiet, Addison kicks the energy back up with a solid Foo Fighters impression in “Tell Me Lies”.
The acoustic guitar makes more features in the album’s second half, where Addison stays within his own bounds, but explores a few more ideas. “Dream” goes light on the electric guitar and stands out as a breezier, sweeter song than what’s around it. “You Tonight” marks the album’s halfway point, and blends the album’s better qualities (sheer energy, Addison’s heart on the sleeve lyrics) with some more varied instrumentation to great effect. “Until The End”, likely the most minor-key offering on Blinding Shadows, proves to be a penultimate epic, and a counterpoint to closer “Take Me In”, which starts with a quick guitar riff and only builds in urgency from there.
It’s worth noting that Blinding Shadows is a very optimistic album, both in music and lyrics. From the lyrics, it’s easy to get the feeling that the theme of Blinding Shadows is that someone just cleared a dark time in their lives, and finally has someone to take them in. Addison is a very earnest writer, too, on one hand his writing is free of pretension, but on the other, his tales of overcoming, reaching out to a lover, or surviving can get repetitive. This is true of the music as well: it’s dominated by big, bright major chord progressions almost to its detriment The frantic guitar solos and scattered female backing vocals give the arrangements some heft, but more often than not, what’s missing from Blinding Shadows is tension.
But still, I only pick albums I like for New Music, and I like Blinding Shadows. The interesting points of it are enough for a good first listen, and from there, it’s a grower of an album. Michael Addison’s a sturdy performer in his own, and filled with potential. Few embrace rock this eagerly, and while Blinding Shadows might take a bit to warm up, it’s always inviting.