When someone mentions the name Vertical Horizon, images of 90’s alt-rock appear in your head and most likely one of the most played songs of the decade “Everything You Want”. Vertical Horizon rose to fame in 1999 with the release of their album, “Everything You Want” whose title track went multi- platinum and spawned three hit singles, but after a few years of refocusing on the band, the music and restructuring, the band is back with a new platform and sound. Vertical Horizon’s latest release Echoes From The Underground is a departure from the band’s signature sound but it’s a welcome addition to their repertoire. One of Vertical Horizon’s greatest strengths is the ability to adapt and change to the ever evolving music landscape and experiment with new sounds and techniques and it’s something Lead Singer, songwriter and founder Matt Scannell does not shy away from. Vertical Horizon’s music is timeless and without limits, continually changing and evolving. The band is not afraid to take risks, from their early days as a duo in 1991 and all its incarnations, Vertical Horizon has stayed true to themselves and the music that has delighted new and old fans alike. Lead singer Matt Scannell leaves the listener to interpret his songs with endless possibilities letting fans make the song their own and defining what the song means to them. Scannell has found a way to craft melodic songs with substance, through storytelling and emotions that plague everyone such as love, loss and moving on; Echoes From The Underground” does just that.
“Echoes From The Underground”. It’s a perfect name because it’s like a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered and makes you wonder what treasures you’ll uncover. For their new album, the band turned to their loyal fan base that funded the record through Pledge Music. Pledge Music gives fans a chance to contribute to their favorite artist in exchange, pledges receive items such as autographed cds, VIP Passes or even dinner with your favorite artist. The artists also communicate with fans through video and written updates via the Pledge Music site. This in turn makes the fans feel part of the creative process of making the record. This record brings a shift in Vertical Horizon’s sound and tone both stylistically and melodically. Scannell was influenced and inspired by the sounds of Peter Gabriel, Imogen Heap, Rush Drummer Neil Peart and Singer Songwriter Richard Marx both whom collaborated with Scannell to produce two tracks together on the album. As much as he embraces his Rush influence Scannell dug a little deeper and experimented with a more heightened 80’s synth sound. Some of the standout tracks on the album include, “Broken You Over You, “Lovestruck” “ Song For Someone”, “Instamatic” and “ You Never Let me Down”.
“Broken Over You” is the first single off the album and a great choice at that, with a great pop rock sound, catchy chorus and a hook that reels you in from the first note, the song mixes melody and melancholy of love lost and found. You can’t help but sing along and the lyrics are true to life and can resonate with listeners young and old. It seems like for Scannell, relationships and the complexity of human emotion are at the core of his songwriting. If “Broken Over You” is Scannell’s depiction of love lost and found then “Lovestruck” is the what some would call the “honeymoon” phase of a relationship.
With “Lovestruck” Scannell experiments with some very different sounds, while making the record Scannell was influenced by artists like Imogen Heap, Richard Marx, Joy Division and Peter Gabriel and this is certainly evidenced by the production of this track. It’s here that Scannell creates a 80’s pop rock sound using synth work and electronica with driving drum beats, keyboards, synthesizers and Scannell’s crisp vocals it’s a deviation from the VH sound but a welcomed one and makes you wish they worked with synthesizers more often. This album is a mix of emotions of a roller coaster ride, “Lovestruck” brings you up to new heights while “ A Song For Someone” will bring you back to down to earth and make you contemplate about what’s really important in life.
“ A Song for Someone” was inspired by one of Vertical Horizon’s trips overseas to sing for the troops. One day, upon seeing a lone soldier walking alone in a sandstorm Scannell was inspired to write the track. “A Song For Someone” is a beautiful uplifting track with a rousing chorus it’s pure and genuine and the sound of Scannell’s vocals make the track shine. A feel good song that’s there for you when people aren’t. This album is a departure for the band in so many ways but also a new beginning to create new sounds and new story and one chapter of that story is where Scannell gets some help from famous friends Rush Drummer Neil Peart and Grammy award winning singer songwriter Richard Marx. The two worked with Scannell to produce the tracks “ Instamatic” and “ You Never Let Me Down”.
“ Instamatic” is a straight up rocker with drums the driving force and rightfully so when you have a decorated drummer like Neil Peart at the helm. They anchor the song, “Instamatic hits you right away with its intricate and complex composition and strong guitars it’s certainly memorable and will become a favorite. On the other end of the spectrum, is “ You Never Let Me Down”.
“ You Never Let Me Down” is a positive, upbeat pop driven tune and that opens the album. 80’s pop icon and Scannell’s longtime friend Richard Marx wrote the track. It begins with a long intro of crunchy, distorted high decibel guitars that create what could be a catchy inspiring radio hit and you can certainly hear Marx’s influence on the song. With the song, there is an underlying theme of sadness and troubled love and like an abstract painting Scannell paints images of darkness and light through vivid lyrical imagery.
However, perhaps the greatest strength of this album and the band itself is it’s genuineness, relatability and the capacity to draw the listener in it’s captivating. Scannell has the ability to make his story, relate to your own. Echoes From The Underground is the type of album that the more you listen to it the more new things you discover and the deeper it draws you in. For Vertical Horizon’s longtime fans this will be a welcomed addition to their collection and for those just discovering the band it’s will draw you in wanting more and wondering like a good book where the next chapter will lead.
Vertical Horizon – “Half-Light”
Vertical Horizon – “You Never Let Me Down”
Vertical Horizon – “I Free You”