One thing that I like with the name Apollo Under Fire is that it is impossible to label, with a name like that you could be in any genre from pop to heavy metal. Already by the name, I was intrigued to find out what the band was all about. The embryo of the band was set in 2013 when lead vocalist David Carpenter (SumerseD, Eye Empire) and Candlebox guitarist Peter Klett met at a benefit concert for the Johnny Damon Foundation. In 2014 the couple met drummer Tom Costanza, a self-taught drummer whose dad was a drummer in the New York jazz scene. In the fall of 2014 the three-piece had the songs to record an album and with some outside bass playing help from Klett’s Candlebox buddy demos were recorded, but the search for a permanent bassist had to begin. They soon found a guy named Stu Cox who fitted the band’s musical vision and the band was completed. Or so they thought. When it became clear that a second guitar was needed to complete the sound, Jimmy Kwong, an old friend of the band came in and the line-up was ready to go. One quick listen to the album and it was clear that Apollo Under fire belongs in the soft rock / alternative pop/rock genre that sported bands such as Lifehouse and Matchbox 20 in the 90’s, but that’s not me saying that AUF sound anything like those bands. And I have to be honest, that is a genre I normally find myself moving around in. But at first listen I liked what I heard so I was more than willing to give these guys a fair shot. The way I see it, the more music and the more different styles I can get my hands on, the better.
The opening track “Gotta Believe” is a bit too soft for an opening track in my book. The song is heavily based on acoustic guitars and is sniffing around the ballad side of rock. I have issues with ballads as opening songs on a rock record, but the song is actually very good and the melody remains in the musical side of my brain so fair enough. The soft pop rocker “Wings” would have been a better opening track as far as I’m concerned. It reminds me somewhat of Alter Bridge, a band I really dig, so thumbs up on that one. “When It Rains” is a big acoustic guitar based rock ballad, a bit mellow but also very catchy. A good song that comes very close to being great. “Inside You” is another rock ballad, very memorable and catchy enough for some serious airplay if luck comes their way – very good. “Refuse” takes a slightly heavier direction, but it is also a slower song that runs on the ballad border. I like it that the guitars are at the frontline and something in the song makes me think of 90’s rockers Live. Live to me were an uneven band, but this song isn’t uneven at all. “One Track Mind” is a darker kind of pop rocker with a big 90’s alternative sound and probably the heaviest song on the album. I’m not a big fan of alternative music so even though it’s an ok song, it doesn’t really do it for me. “Weightless” is a big uptempo acoustic guitar based pop song with a very memorable melody and really catchy chorus that sticks right of the bat and probably my favorite song on the album. I smell a hit here. Remember the 90’s pop band wet Wet Wet Wet? (I must state that WWW were a very underrated pop band). Well, rock their songs up a notch and you get “Feed Your Love”. It’s very big on the acoustic guitars and has a very smooth melody line and some really cool hooks – I really like that one. “Wait” is total mid 90’s, a ballad with big guitars and a melancholic arrangement – a good enough song. They close the album with “Sweet Freedom”, an acoustic ballad that hold its place in the alternative mid nineties, somewhere between bands like Lifehouse and Live. The song is ok, but it passes by without me taking much notice of it.
Apollo Under Fire comes out as a good band – good musicians and a really good singer, but even though there are some really good songs on the album, the material is way too anonymous, very much like all of the alternative soft rock bands for the 90’s. Also, the album is way too big on the ballads and even though I’m a big fan of the odd ballad or two, I want my rock records to come with a majority of uptempo songs whether it is pop songs or rock songs, too many ballads bores me and makes me lose interest. The whole sound scape here is based on mellowness and it feels like all the songs floats together and it is really hard to remember the individual songs – I think I would appreciate their songs more if I put them in a playlist and hit the random button. I don’t think this is a bad album at all and the guys are really good at what they do, but this kind of music just doesn’t move me at all. But for fans of the bands mentioned above and their likes, this record will probably be a really good investment.
1. Gotta Believe
3. When It Rains
4. Inside You
6. One Track Mind
8. Feel Your Love
10. Sweet Freedom