Ropetree hails from the infamous Toms River sector of Ocean County. The band is no stranger to the scene and has played all over the country. Their original biography sums the group up as, “Four Army ants plotting a way to take down a Praying Mantis. You can only Duct tape the anger and frustration of life for so long. When the Volcano erupts, you get Ropetree. The band is selling cotton-candy poison, collecting addicts and killing the non-believers with unexpected purity. Nothing has been given to these guys. They have earned every ounce of their respect by taking the long and painful road to nowhere, proving that they do this because they love it.”
And this is a bio that I would have to agree with. Ropetree has been around for years, starting back early in the decade with the release of Full of Curses in 2000, and releasing over six projects — including the brand-new release of The Saints of Asbury on their Stone Pony in 2018. The band has gone through a myriad of stylistic changes and a treasure trove of material featured on other releases such as the 2011 release, Thanks for Nothing, and their 2013 record, Bacon. The band claims essential references such as Foo Fighters, Chevelle, Fugazi, and Incubus. Their latest record shows a lot of those influences as the group delivers powerhouse rock on their distinct terms.
It has been said, “words cannot encase the flow of emotion that floods a listener when accosted by the intense sounds of Ropetree. They not only perfect their version of a modern, progressive, hard rock sound, but they manage to purify the music before it touches your ears. One could almost taste the passion and sentiment intended when listening to songs like ‘Evil in Me’ and ‘Your Welcome’ and ‘Finally.’ Allow yourself to be intoxicated with music so rich, that only a few can remain sober.” And while that’s a pretty big compliment, knowing the band as I do, I would have to say that whoever said that had been a faithful listener and knew the group from A to Z.
The Saints of Asbury on their Stone Pony features a total of 11-tracks and is a project that the band says breathes new life into what they do. They fuse classic elements with surprising new twists. The latest record is produced by the group with all lyrics supplied by Bill M. The disc was recorded and mixed at Canyon Music LLC with Alexis Piccolo Avalone assisting with engineering. Special guests include Kate Vextion (from Vextion) on a couple of songs as well as Doug Kurl on percussion and Frankie G on keys. The disc was mastered at Rogue Planet by Mike Kalajian.
So, let’s take a listen to some of the new songs from The Saints of Asbury on their Stone Pony and see what the band is all about in 2018.
The record opens with “Lost Again.” The song shows the band back in rare form doing what they do best, namely, rocking hard. The song itself is an exciting mix of mid-tempo aggression and topics of betrayal and heartache. The band goes from clean, melodic verses to massive, overdrive-laced, guitar dominated choruses. Bill and Jeff pair well together, laying down crunchy rhythms and blistering lead lines while Zulli (drums) and Vin (bass) hold down the songs bottom end with style. The compositional talent is extremely evident here, and the band scores well with a song that shows both depth and skill in a genre that’s been done to death.
Moving around the disc, I came to yet another exciting song is called “So Bad.” The band gets funky on this one, and it swings as Bill sings about the age-old subject of sexual delight. Guitars pop as Vin and Zulli lay down the funkiest rock/funk licks on the planet. Special guest Kate Vextion, from Vextion, adds moxie to Bills melodic vocals, and it’s a perfect pairing for the choruses. Guitars have the perfect balance of overdrive and clean, and the song is an ass-kicker for sure. I love the combination of funky rhythm and the heavy cargo of the exceptional chorus. Like Bill says, “Your secret is safe with me, just listen to Ropetree.” The guitar in the middle-eight is feisty and influential of Mike Einziger (Incubus), and it really pushes the song into the second half as Bill comes back in for another verse go around. I also love the guitar riff coming out of the middle-eight as Bill and the band head back to the proverbial barn.
Another stellar song is “Intoxicated Love.” Clean guitars start things off as Bill sings his lyrical magic. I love the changes in the chorus also. Chord changes downshift before returning to the verse, and the rhythm talents of Zulli and Vin, who keep this ballad styled number firmly planted on the ground as guitars chime and blow into the bridge. Once the band is into the lead break, the guitars push out two measures of blistering speed and well-honed melodic grace. Another spectacular tune from Toms River’s favorite sons.
“Rats and Pigeons” is up next. Dark and dense anti-matter collides with lush melodies and addictive rhythms as Bill sings his heart out. I like the second distorted vocal that is a doubling of sorts. Guitars are minimalistic and clean in the verses, and then they explode when the band hits the bridge and chorus. Chaotic lyrics meld with supreme arrangement and presentation as Ropetree tears the heart out of the compositional matter. Another terrific mix of angst and passion all wrapped up in a smart package of performance.
“Plastic Jesus” mixes a jazzy, R&B beginning with Bills lyrical exploration of society and the classes of our lives. The chorus is extremely hooky, and Bill comes up with the perfect melody for this song. I love the funk-based guitars — diving, and chirping between the lines and over Bills smart vocal choices. Kate Vextion is back on this as well, and she harmonizes with Bill to make the choruses bigger than life. She is a talented vocalist in her own right and using her on this record was a wise choice. “Plastic Jesus” is one of my favorites on the disc and should give this band tons of notoriety on their journey to the top.
I don’t have space or time for the entire record, but I did listen to the whole album, and this is going to be one of the best releases of the summer. With a CD release party date slated for June 30, this is the record you want to add to your collection. And you’ll get to see the band on June 30 when they take control of The Saint on that very date. Joining them will be Vextion, Lower The Veil and December Morning. The Saints of Asbury on their Stone Pony will also be available at all digital outlets on July 6.
For more information on Ropetree and The Saints of Asbury on their Stone Pony head over to their Facebook page at facebook.com/ropetreeband.