As I approached the Seven Days parking lot, I knew this was going be much more than the typical Jersey Shore love fest. A sea of black T-shirts, bald heads and heavy-duty clouds of cigarette smoke filled the black-topped entrance area, making it look more like a biker rally than a night club show. Seven Days is located in the gritty little shore town of Union Beach, a tough population of working class white, black, Asian and Spanish far removed from the unicorns and lollipop sunshine of Asbury’s Cookman Avenue. The band I was here to see was a hard-hitting outfit out of the Deep South called Eye Empire.

The group hails from Atlanta, Georgia, and has a close relationship with musical mentor Sevendust. Sevendust vocalist Lajon Witherspoon and drummer Morgan Rose actually helped them finish recording material for their 2010 CD, Moment Of Impact. Founding Eye Empire members Corey Lowery and BC Kochmit (Dark New Day) joined up with Vocalist Donald Carpenter (Submersed) and drummer Garrett Whitlock (Submersed) before ending up with former Texas Hippie Coalition drummer Ryan Bennett, who completed the four piece outfit in 2010 and remains as a permanent member.

Eye Empire’s show was well attended by a large cross-section of locals and bona-fide followers. During the show, the front row was packed with patrons that sang along to every word of the band’s 12 song set. When I first heard the name Eye Empire, I was thinking this was just going to be another testosterone laden screaming match with a mosh pit or maybe some sort of an eyeglass store. But as they lit their proverbial fuse, the sounds and sights that I witnessed were so much more than standard fare.

Lead vocalist Don Carpenter stepped up with a charisma and style more akin to a Methodist preacher than a rock and roll singer. Carpenter extolled the virtues of respect and harmony throughout their set, taking time to introduce each song with a story or a meaning that went well beyond the common crowd pleasing, “Are we having a good time?”

The band is out in support of their June 19 album, Impact, a two-disc set that features over 24 songs. The set tonight was fast and furious as the group spewed out lethal doses of heavy-hitting rock and roll along the influential lines of Dry Kill Logic and Spineshank.

Some of the highlights of the set were songs such as set opener, “Ignite.” Twisted guitar riffs blasted over Carpenters roar from the Stone Age as bassist Corey Lowery locked it down under the precise ministrations of drummer Ryan Bennett. Carpenter has quite a range, as he rains fire and brimstone imagery down on the final curtain. Lyrics like, “Were hypnotized, the end is fast approaching, you better run for your life” warn of the approaching guitar work of Kochmit and his Fuchs powered cacophony. Kochmit is an original thinking player that burns a hole down the middle of this song like the Chernobyl meltdown through linoleum.

“Feels Like I’m Falling” screams radio airplay and wasted no time getting the locals riled up like a pack of hornets. Melodic and centered in the territory of Adelitas Way, this song quakes under the precision lobbed missile of Carpenter’s voice. Many singers can pull this off in the studio but fall short live. Guys like Brett Scallions start fast and hard but run out of steam halfway through a set, but not Carpenter. His tone is mid-ranged and full throttle. He goes from blood curdling screams to melodic alto lines in a single breath. A good example is “Angels And Demons (Be My Angel),” a progressive composition that features the layered harmonies of Carpenter and Lowery producing a killer chorus that lends itself more towards the commercial aspect of Linkin Park than bands like Korn or Taproot could ever hope for.

Other highlights were “Great Deceiver” and show closer “I Pray.” “I Pray” whipped the crowd into a frenzy that resulted in at least one scuffle before the band paused to give bouncers time to escort the gentleman in question out of the club and refocusing the audience. “I Pray” has the feel of good Soundgarden from the late ‘80s. Guitar work by Kochmit scorches the very ceiling as he twists the neck of his custom PRS into pentatonic runs and riffs. Carpenter’s throat scalding vocals rattled the speakers as Lowery and Bennett pummeled the front row with syncopated thunder.

When Deb Muller of Fuchs Audio asked me to check out this band, I was apprehensive to say the least. I’m not a big fan of mega heavy or drop tuned bands because so much of it follows the same piper. But after watching Carpenter and crew dish out precise, enjoyable music, I was glad I made the trip to see a band embrace a new direction and impart positive messages to the fans. I didn’t get a chance to stay for the midget tossing after the set, but…yeah. (Seriously, there were bowling midgets)

Eye Empire is a refreshing break from the usual gaggle of Staind clones that dwell across our great nation. For more information on Eye Empire and their new disc, Impact, head over to eyeempire.com.

 

Lo Kloza – CD Release Extravaganza At The Downtown In Red Bank On June 20

Lo Kloza is a freshman artist in the burgeoning class of acoustic singer-songwriters. Her latest self-titled EP consists of six songs of fresh sound and from what I’ve heard so far, Kloza is going to be another good addition to an area that boasts some of the best performers in the country.

Lo’s soulful style has had the prestigious grooming guidance of Don Lawrence (Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga) and her R&B style gives influential nods to artists such as Pink, Sara Bareilles and Adele.

Produced by Michael Ghegan (Bluetone Studios), Kloza and her full band take listeners on a funky and enjoyable journey through her recollections and musings of life immersed in pop culture and traditional old school style. Her voice is immediately loveable and she has the seasoned insight of an artist that’s been around the block more than once. Kloza has also been known to mix things up with one or two of her carefully chosen covers by artists such as Grace Potter or Amy Winehouse. If you like Jessie J, Alanis Morissette and Katy Perry, you’re going to love Lo Kloza.

The CD release show will take place tonight at The Downtown in Red Bank, NJ. Lo will be featuring a full band and special guests Cat Cosentino and Michael Ghegan. For more information on Lo’s latest CD and other Lo facts, head over to her website at lokloza.com. Doors are at 8 p.m. and the cover is $10. The Downtown is located on 10 West Front Street. For more information, call the club directly at 1-732-741-2828.

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