Pittsburgh band Young Fox aren't really newcomers to the scene, but they are just now releasing their full-length debut album, Sky Beats Gold. The band, featuring Marty Lunn of Zao and Luke Cypher and Chris Hawthorne of local band You The Symphony, released their initial EP, Predecessors, nearly three ago. While Predecessors was an impressive first outing, Young Fox have since changed bass players and developed their sound, heavily influenced by 90s alt/rock bands such as Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate, Deftones, and many others. Their music has evolved a bit further with the addition of a baritone guitar -- giving them a thicker and heavier feel.
The lead single, "Sometimes the Monsters Win," starts the album off quite nicely. Just after you think the song has faded out, the guitar kicks back in repeating the opening riff leading into a brief musical interlude before finishing with the chorus one final time. The pause will make you do a double take, but it's a really nice touch. "We Move As Waves" is a personal favorite. The song features a super catchy and melodic chorus, as well as a killer bridge/ending as Cypher sings, "For I was dying and I wanted life in You. And I am always strapped inside of it; I refuse to give." "Slow Burn" is another impressive number with obvious 90s influences. The title is a perfect description of the song itself and features Stephen Christian (Anberlin and Anchor & Braille) in a perfectly placed guest spot in the bridge. "Atom Smasher" picks the album up to a more raucous pace and, while the verses are a touch mellower, the chorus kicks in full-bore. The first half of the album closes out with "Hearts of Men (Part 1)," a song that explores mankind giving up its innocence. Cypher repeatedly asks, "When you are full of yourself, is there room for anyone else?"
The second half of Sky Beats Gold starts more somber than the first, as "Wine of Violence" has a more melancholy feel. The track is the slowest on the album overall -- although it still has its crunchy guitars in the chorus -- but serves as a nice contrast to some of the heavier moments. However, the music does build momentum towards the end leading into "The Desert," a song more akin, though not quite as boisterous, to "Atom Smasher" stylistically. Things begin to wind down with three of the softer and more introspective songs present. "To Be Moving," where the album title is derived, never goes for full-on distorted guitars and instead lets the drums drive the track forward. In an album that discovers the goodness in humanity, despite our current state of affairs, "We Are Not the Wolves" states, "We are not the wolves, but we howl just the same." Young Fox thinks that it's that collective howl that shows our sameness. The album comes to a close with "Hearts of Men (Part 2)." The track starts off light and ambient, as its own song, before the guitars kick in for a reprise of "Part 1." The record fades out with Cypher singing, "We sold our innocence despite all consequence. You can't escape this; you'll see our face and know."
Fans of 90's rock will find that Sky Beats Gold sounds satisfyingly familiar, but interestingly new. While the influences are evident, Young Fox does it in a darker, heavier, and moodier tone. The beauty of it all are the melodic sections that seem to bring hope to more brooding moments. The biggest downfall to Sky Beats Gold is its relatively short runtime -- the album has ten tracks and a total length less than forty minutes. It would've been great to see another song are two pushing the runtime to around forty-five minutes -- even re-recordings (with the baritone) of songs like "The Answer" and "Diet of Worms" from Predecessors would've been truly welcomed. All in all, Young Fox have proven that rock n' roll isn't dead quite yet as they attempt to breathe new life into the genre. While Sky Beats Gold will likely be overlooked by many, it's going to be hard for another album this year to top this nearly flawless outing.
- Review date: 3/9/17, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com