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Project Hero, "New Era"

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Project Hero sounds like a band that’s as internally conflicted as I was confused while listening. Their latest release, New Era, is akin to the work of local power pop stars Stereo Deluxe and Glass Identity Crisis, only with less mainstream appeal. The songs are long and epic with heaps of intricate guitar work and lots of dramatic buildup that would feel best utilized as the score for a B-movie. Lead vocalist Nathan Snyder sings with admirable enthusiasm, but his efforts mostly result in unrefined lead vocals that leave the listener more on edge than ready to rock.

Midway through, Project Hero changes tack - “Echoes” and “Kalimah,” tracks six and seven on the album, have a heavier sound than the rest of the album, with Deftones-esque bass lines leading the way. Still leveraging on elaborate guitar runs, the band unleashes their secret weapon on these tracks - Dan, the “man demon” bass player. I’m not sure why Project Hero only has two songs in their repertoire that sound like these, but they certainly have more potential than the rest of their weird, genre-conglomerated material.

It was disconcerting to hear so many covers on what I assumed would be an album of original work. One cover is from the classical world - the band’s own rendition of Pachebel's world-famous "Canon in D." But there's more: New Era closes with a bonus track featuring Project Hero’s medley of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” All sounded great, but do they really have a place on an album of original work?

Project Hero has been around for a few years, but their overall sound would indicate otherwise. I dig on their heavier stuff, but they seem more interested in playing mainstream hard rock with ostensible radio appeal. Instead, the labored-over instrumentals take a back seat to the irritable vocals, resulting in a record that fails the “would I listen to it again?” test.

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