Ranking high on the "things I'm nostalgic for" list when it comes to the local music scene has been the absence of the local music compilation. I have fond memories of 96.3 The Edge's Essentials series, especially the first few years when I was just learning an instrument and getting on that comp was a far-off fantasy. (I know there were Rock104 comps dating back much farther, but I wasn't around for those). Hearing Onionhead's "Supersonic Rock 'n Roll Star" for the first time was a revelation, and I have a local music compilation to thank. Good news; whatzup, Wooden Nickel Music Stores and Digitracks Recording Studio have brought it back with Battle Songz.
Kicking the disc off strong are Superhunk with "Hit The Deck," a hard-charging blast of pop-rock featuring two men that show up twice on this very compilation, Jon Ross and Travis Fry. Up next are goofballs Kan-tis with "White Dancetastic," a heavy dose of the funky metal this trio is known for. Battle champions The B-Sharps follow with the excellent "B-Minor," a song I have gushed over in the past as one of the best things to ever come out of an area band. Will that ring true for you? We shall see. Then, Gradeight tear through on "100[Proof]." Hardcore thrash has never been high on my list of genres I enjoy, but Gradeight are a massively impressive act. Rounding out the first five tracks are Modern Day Gentlemen with the jam-rap styled "Old School."
Dave Pagan's ever-evolving SupaBadd appeared as a power trio at the Battle, featuring the rhythm section of the above-mentioned Ross and Fry. Here the group offers "Heartbreaker," one of the highlights of the compilation. The track, a hearty mix of Led Zeppelin thunder, pre-B.S. Grammy-baiting Carlos Santana leads and Pagan's penchant for reggae, is the comp's longest track, clocking in at over six minutes. Finalists Verge Of Submission offer the Sevendust-y "Your Misery" to the proceedings. Fellow finalists What She Said follow with the heavy-pop "working for the weekend" anthem, "She Likes Her Rock 'n Roll." Up next, local veterans Pleasing Melani present the rowdy Morphine-by-way-of-punk-rock "Full Of ***T" featuring another comp two-timer in saxophonist Scott Snyder. Rounding out the top 10 are the sure-to-be-missed Under The Wake with the brutal metal of "Unholy Ghost."
Dave Schmoekel, formerly of local compilation veterans Jettingham, follows with his band Heroes 4 Ghosts and their Creed-like duet "Away From Me," featuring bassist Jessie Todd. Then comes a quick pop-punk track from Aadia with their opinion of the area in "Fort Waste." Finalists Morose are up next with the steady pop-rock of "Dayquee." Scott Snyder then returns as PoopDeFlex and quickly tears through his "Hobby In The Lobby," which is almost over before it begins. The compilation ends on a rather epic note with Zephaniah's historic account of the bloodiest battle in American history, "Antietam." The track is a highlight and its easy to see why it was chosen to send off the listener.
This compilation ranks with the earlier Essentials sets as far as quality and general enthusiasm amongst the participating bands. Hopefully, this trend continues and we have a new compilation every year after the Battle has been won. Battle Songz is an excellent sampler of the newest wave of talent that the city has to offer. I'm sure some impressionable youth will find his or her "Supersonic Rock 'N Roll Star" within its confines. (Z.B. Smith)