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"Hard side mag."

Review by Hard Side:
Blackmaker - Staggering to the Surface
By Brad Podray

Blackmaker has released an album that makes the listener feel as if their sneakers should be traded in for black boots and that their last paycheck is probably going to be spent on covering bodily damage which will be taken at a bar fight. In other words, they are a modern hard rock band that doesn’t suck. Absent are the mindless lyrics of bands like Three Days Grace. Thankfully gone is the musical ineptitude of bands like Saliva and Nickelback.

Although “Staggering to the Surface” exhibits the hard rock formula(soft guitar/bass over the verse, then distorted guitar over the chorus), it’s restrained in a way that makes the CD surprisingly bearable and enjoyable. Track 3’s “Spiraling,” for example, has almost a punk-ish energy combined with the sentimentality of hard rock.
Two things that make this album at least a little bit more interesting than other albums of this genre are Blackmaker’s decision to use innovative songwriting tactics and their slight hint of synthetic effects. Filtered drums and vocal manipulations add to the thickness of the sound without making the emotions of the songs seem fake.
“Wicked Tongue” in particular has an odd, upbeat style seldom seen in bands that claim to be “hard rock.” There’s a gritty nature to the album that rides along the same vein as greats such as Motorhead(but lets not go too far here…Blackmaker is no Motorhead, but “Staggering to the Surface” has a sound that is several miles closer to Motorhead’s sound than the awful rock heard on generic popular radio station).
This album serves a healthy helping of modern rock, served with a side of clever innovation and good songwriting. While it’s not going to revolutionize the way music is written, it’s several heads above a lot of what you’ve been listening to…especially if you’re a Nickelback fan.
Sure to please: Anyone who says they like hard rock.
Sure to disappoint: Generic hard rock bands, Motorhead (but lets face it…who can honestly please Motorhead?)
CD Info

Blackmaker - Staggering to the Surface
Label: Kentland Records
Rating: 3 ½ stars of poss. 4

- Brad podray


From the windy city of Chicago comes a full throttle rock and roll unit called Blackmaker, their southern style of bluesy hard rock sounds like it’s been done by whiskey drinking men with hair on their chests
Blackmaker’s sound can be described in the best way as hearing 2 guitarists and 1 bass player pluggin in their instruments without any effects only needing the volume button and then a groovy drummer that is the key to making the music swing.
"Staggering to the surface" is like hearing a mix of Black Crowes and Jibe, the use of acoustic guitars in most of the songs on this album is an excellent idea....something more bands should try, just listen to "Good day" and be amazed.
I can imagine Blackmaker being a truly great live band when listening to songs like "Not impressed" and "Revolution", their melodic approach is 100% coz I cant stop listening to the enormous "Spiraling" and the emotional "Novocaine". The first single "Still waiting" is timeless, it could´ve been written and recorded in 74,81 or 92.....pure classic rock. Anyway-Blackmaker is too good to go by unnoticed.


"Grande rock e-zine"

Blackmaker is a brand new band from Chicago. In a more general way they can be described as a rock band but things here are not that simple. I mean that they are looking more at the modern rock music with some nu-metal, nu-breed and hard rock elements from song to song. When I put the CD in my CD-player I was afraid that I was going to listen to boring uninspired rock music… but thank God, I was wrong. I like to listen to all kinds of music, above all I’m a music lover, and I really love to listen to inspired catchy melodic music. Thus, Blackmaker has got that point. Rock guitars, steady rhythm section and excellent vocals… are the things that offering us with their debut album. The production is superb and gives more points to the whole result. Also the promo package that I received is the best that I have seen in years and the digi-pack edition of the CD is just great. These are some things that make them overpass other bands that moving in the same music path with them. I know what it matters most is the music, but in that part they doing great as well. Just listen to songs like “Good Day”, “Spiraling”, “Let It Go”, “All About A Girl”, “Wicked Tongue”, “Break”, “Novocaine” (surely can become the hit of the band and brought on my mind The Cure), “Still Waiting” and “Few & Far Between” and I have no doubt that they will grab your attention. If you like modern rock music along with nu metal and hard rock elements then this CD will please you. I believe that we have found a band that can take a leading part in that specific music genre… but time will tell. Till then, give ‘em a chance cause they truly deserve it.
- Grande rock e-zine

"Sound Monitor"

Though Blackmaker are not offering anything that hasn’t been done before, the highest of quality has been paid to their brand of energized rock. Leaning on the recent successes of no-frills rock acts such as Nickelback, Tonic and 3 Doors Down, Blackmaker have unleashed a promising debut full-length with passion, integrity, and perhaps most importantly, balls.

Initially Staggering to the Surface is not an album that grabs you by the throat, perhaps due to opening with a relatively bland track in comparison to some of the others display. ‘Revolution’ starts with a funky, scratchy guitar riff that may get the booty shaking in their regular haunt of the House of Blues, but doesn’t translate into an instant hit in the lounge room. That said, the song’s Stone Temple Pilots feel is nevertheless useful as an introduction, choosing not to force-feed the listener at first bite.

‘Spiralling’ is where the album truly kicks off with it’s Our Lady Peace/Moist overtones, whereas it’s successor ‘Let It Go’ calls to mind early to mid-caree Shihad with it’s bombastic rhythms care of Tony Porfirio and Kris Gutrich on bass and drums, respectively. Vocalist Jeff Randall commands attention due to his Jim Morrsion-esque presence and his dry-but-smooth sound, reminding this here listener of the criminally underrated Andrew Gillespie of Scary Mother, while the twin guitar-approach is competently and complimentarily delivered by Reggie Raisner and Mark Grzelak.

‘Novocaine’ would perhaps be the albums highlight with its interesting structural mix of heavy and light guitars, introspective lyrics and urgent beats, occasionally ushering in a wall of noise before fading to a desperate, repetitive black. Meanwhile ‘All About A Girl’ takes a jazzy, relaxed approach, and ‘Still Waiting’ demonstrates the bands’ promising commercial potential.

On the downside, I feel the album is let down somewhat by the lack of immediate hooks that the bigger stadium acts have mastered. While confident, competent, well produced and nicely packaged, the album only occasionally sparks and fastens the listener tight. But then again, inviting the listener to work a tiny bit in coming to terms with the tunes also nurtures a sense of kinship with the songs.

So while Blackmaker will not be dominating the charts anytime soon, Staggering to the Surface is nevertheless a curious listening for those who dig on blues-based riffs with a big American rock sound. - Warren Wheeler

"The Cutting Edge"

Staggering To The Surface
Kentland Records

“I’ve been looking for a revolution/so far I haven’t found a solution” is the first lyric oozing from Blackmaker’s 13-song debut on Kentland Records. The song “Revolution” with its addictive groove establishes a purity missing from radio’s FM format. For the Chicago 5-piece Staggering To The Surface marks a long time coming for one of the cities hardest working bands. Having organized themselves in 2001, the group have climbed a prestigious mountain on the back of their excellent songwriting and consistently professional live shows. Pulling from a host of influences from Thin Lizzy and Bob Seger to UFO their CD stands as one of the finest modern rock record since Matchbox 20’s "Yourself Or Someone Like You."

Some of the disc’s pop-rock numbers including “Spiraling” the guitar-fueled “Let It Go” and the pounding “Not Impressed” have a distinct ‘70s hard rock feel reminiscent of some of the biggest stadium sellers of the day. “Good Day” in particular has a Foreigner feel along the lines of “Spellbinder off that band’s chart topper Double Vision. Yet, there’s also the tuned-down feedback of “Break” that distinguishes the band as their own identity.

“All About A Girl,” track five, is the record’s emotional ballad destined for chart success. Potent, pretty and deeply moving, the song has the same impact as Live’s “Lightning Crashes.” The light-hearted “Wicked Tongue” shows the band’s layered capabilities of combine a playfully acoustic intro with gritty guitar swagger. Production on this charmer is crystal clear whether it’s the meaty bass in “Break” or the mountain of feedback in “Things Get Any Worse.” This is one of those few CD where every song bears repeating over and over. Brilliant!

Website: Kentland Records, Blackmaker -


Ep's, comps:
2001 - "purple ep" produced by Mike Zirkel & Blackmaker
2001 - Best of unsigned Chicago - Jeff McClusky & associates
2002 - Nashville sessions - 4-song ep
2002 - Blackmaker acoustic - 4 song ep
2002- Chicago invasion ep - CMJ 2002
2003 - Nashville/home sessions - 5-song ep
Full lengths:
2004 - Full length release "staggering to the surface" Kentland records, Chgo IL
2006 - Currently, always writing more material for future brilliant releases
currently in Chicago recording new record, with a trip to Los Angeles to record a few songs at Radio Recorders.
2006-Recorded 3 Song EP at Gravity Studios Chi.



Blackmaker rocks. Their songs...their sound...their shows. They flood rock and roll into every venue they play or headphone they're played through. They will punch you in the mouth and then politely hand you a towel for your lip. They will hurt you with volume, tear you up with energy and then let you back down with melody and an acoustic. No bandwagons. No trendiness. No bullshit. Blackmaker rocks.