BASTION
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"Ezra Waller Review for Honey Sacrifice"

BASTION's "The Honey Sacrifice" reviewed by Cincymusic.com

Bastion
The Honey Sacrifice

by Ezra Waller

With '80s new wave and punxploitation continuing to inform new music, Bastion is taking a forward-looking approach by mining the opposite end of that decade for influences. Their long awaited debut, The Honey Sacrifice, is strongly reminiscent of the genesis of mainstream alternative rock, with some shards of heavy metal thrown in for context. While not a completely novel sound, they do it so amazingly well that this disc is likely to become a treasured part of your CD collection, nestled right between the Jane's Addiction and Soundgarden discs.

Beyond being outstanding performers and songwriters, Bastion has an uncanny sense of both how to structure a song for optimum impact and how to mix them to maximize interest. It would be impossible for the band members to hide their Jazz and Fusion backgrounds. Most of their riffs and grooves are straightforward, but every so often you'll hear a lick or fill that hints at mastery beyond what 99% of rock musicians attain. The delicate playing on "Blue" and the syncopated labyrinth of "Leave Her Alone" are testaments to their sharp ears and ability to lock in on what another has played and instinctively add a complementary part.

Every track on every song on the disc is perfectly executed, from Greg Slone's machine gun snare roll that kick starts the album to the endless guitar and vocal layers that build upon one another in each arrangement. Although not impossibly dense, you can listen to the album through many times and hear something new in every song. Bastion's attention to detail shows in the tiny changes with each successive verse and chorus. With an added vocal part here or a different guitar lead there, the band has guaranteed that listener fatigue will not be a problem whether listening for the first time or the hundredth.

Incredibly, the disc is self-produced, with lead guitarist Don Gauck responsible for engineering and most of the interlocking composition. Bastion clearly has the ability to take a step away from their work and decide what needs to be done to serve their vision, more evidence of the extensive training and experience of the players, and also their history together. Although a debut album for the band, the material has been coalescing for many years. Knowing this, it's also miraculous that The Honey Sacrifice is so cohesive.

As the song titles would suggest, singer/guitarist Brad Wilkins' lyrical world is a dark and tortured place. The writing is very good, but his evocative delivery is the key to the vocals' success as centerpiece of the album. Much of the singing is subdued, and Wilkins' voice shimmers like Geoff Tate's in his gentler moments (don't worry, no wine-glass-shattering pitch exercises here). But when he cuts loose, his soulful screams are on par with Chris Cornell's. His range is impressive, and carefully crafted harmonies and echoing background vocals bolster each performance.

The lone complaint I have about Bastion's music - and this is hardly a criticism in the eyes of some - is that every song sounds like a single. Granted, this is the Holy Grail for airplay-seekers, but for a band with this degree of talent in performance and composition, you know they could write some amazing Prog Rock. If an eight minute opus or two is too much to ask, maybe an instrumental or at the very least an oddball intro or interlude? It's okay to be a little self-indulgent, most everybody's favorite bands have done it, and few complain.

On a similar note, there is an amazing amount of tasty lead on The Honey Sacrifice, but few actual guitar solos, and those that are there ("Scream With Me," "The World That Owes Me," "Dirty Sheets") are very understated. Having heard this and some of Gauck's other work, it's obvious that he's got the creativity and chops to absolutely wail, but again, I suspect the pursuit of the pinnacle of listener friendliness has tempered the work. There is no arguing that Bastion has mastered the art of the fastball hook. Now it's time for them to loosen up and throw a few curves.




- Cincymusic


"Interview"

Thursday, May 26, 2005

BASTION in CityBeat


Local Rock powerhouse Bastion readies their debut release

Interview By Ezra Waller



Ten years ago, Greg Slone decided to assemble his ideal band. The impressive Fusion drummer had recently met singer/guitarist Brad Wilkins through a mutual acquaintance, and they soon started writing music together.

"We hit it off because we've both always thought it important that Rock music have attitude in addition to musicianship," says Slone.

Guitarist Don Gauck was on top of Slone's list; the pair had spent their teenage years playing together. But then, as now, the CCM grad maintained a busy schedule teaching and playing in countless outfits, performing everything from Jazz to Rock to acoustic shows.

"We tried to get Don, but back then I couldn't sing my way out of a paper sack," admits Wilkins. "It was like bad Perry Farrell, so he wasn't into it."

The uneasy feeling turned out to be mutual. "We went to see him playing some cover gig," continues Wilkins. "I still had the pretentious, elitist, punk attitude, so I was like, 'No freaking way am I playing with this guy!'"

"Here we are 10 years later, so it finally all worked out," chuckles Slone.

That's a gross understatement. Aside from a gap where Slone played with MOTH and Wilkins was distracted by a relationship, the pair have been playing together almost continuously. Once they had a chance to polish their style, Gauck was willing to get on board.

There are many elements to their creative success, and one is that they have stayed true to their vision rather than resorting to trend-chasing. Bastion's sound hints at some stand-outs of the Metal-to-Grunge transition axis, namely Queensryche and Stone Temple Pilots. Their songs are imbued with depth and complexity, but not at the expense of listenability.

Another key is that all are avid songwriters with equal input into production. This is where the fraternal chemistry is crucial. Many bands claim the "no egos" ethos, but the proof is in the pudding. Or, in this case, the Honey.

The Honey Sacrifice is Bastion's debut LP, and it's one of the crispest self-produced albums I've ever heard. Their secret was simply to spend adequate time on pre-production and re-recording as necessary to get exactly the sound they wanted. They also took a page from the Led Zeppelin recording book, gratuitously experimenting with layering.

"We filled out all the songs with little riffs, effects and ornaments to keep the songs building so you're not bored by the time the chorus comes around the third time," says Gauck.

A natural frontman, Wilkins' commanding voice is also a primary ingredient. But he was initially opposed to the role. "I just wanted to play bass," he quips, "but we realized it was going to be impossible to find a lead singer since we write all the melodies and lyrics and want to stay in control of that." The same situation complicated their bass player search. Joe Johnson is currently filling the position admirably, after a series of overly busy players.

Bastion's promotion plan includes weekend tours and possibly a week on each coast. They are also using online outlets to build a following. A show last month attracted a half dozen fans from Dayton, who found them through myspace.com. Building a sizable cult following should be no problem, but you could just as easily see a band of this caliber opening for Velvet Revolver.

"We don't have specific expectations of success," says Gauck. "As long I can keep making great music with these guys, even if we have to keep our day jobs, that's success."



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- City Beat


Discography

The Honey Sacrifice (2005)
Ultra Violent (2007)
Nocturnal EP (2009)

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Bio

Every once in awhile a band comes along that truly has a unique sound with a definitive cross-over appeal. BASTION is one of those rare bands. With a dark and moody hard-edged pop sensibility…BASTION has amassed teenage fans, loyal followers in their 40’s and everyone in between.

The band was formed in 2001 by Brad Wilkins (lead vox/bass) and Greg Slone (drums). BASTION’s founding members had a strong connection as performers/songwriters early on in previous bands and realized the potential of their partnership immediately. With the addition of Don Gauck (guitar/backing vox) in 2002 the line-up was finally complete. Together all three share a level of experience, musical training and friendship that is unique to the music industry today. More importantly, this precious trifecta create a sound that blends a menagerie of rock, post-punk and harmonious qualities, to create aching melodies with driving rhythmic sections that fulfill a need to shout and cry at the same time. “Our music can be dark and angry but it can also be energetic, powerful and uplifting. As in life, we explore and exploit many different moods,” explains (drummer) Greg Slone.

The combination of the technical excellence of BASTION’s members as musicians combined with Wilkins' evocative and androgynous voice produces the sound that is the essence of BASTION. Wilkins' extensive vocal range allows for performances ranging from dark/moody to powerful/edgy in the vein of The Killers, Kings of Leon and Muse.

Influences ranging from The Police to Fugazi are evident, but BASTION’s unique sound is purely a result of the talent and emotion Wilkins, Slone and Gauck bring to their songwriting and performance influenced by “everyday life, stupidity, and avoidance of logic.... sometimes we’re just angry” spouts Wilkins.

“In a BASTION live performance, we create something that is living and breathing and can only happen once,” says Gauck. “The collaboration of instruments, voices and audience is never the same again. Every performance creates it's own energy – and just like our music—its own unique signature.”