Tsavo
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Tsavo

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
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"Tsavo "The Search""

While he wasn't the most illustrious President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge was a masterful orator. Considering the turbulent economic climate as of late, perhaps no statement of his is more applicable today:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!

Entrepreneurship in music is a risk, and when a band's extended setlist includes covers of A Perfect Circle's "The Hollow," Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," Staind's "Mudshovel," and Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," it stands to reason that the band in question should deliver a powerful, unique catalogue of original material unless they're content with playing at $2-you-call-it bars instead of venues for the entirety of their career. After all, the demand for pure cover bands is about as high as Dubya's exit approval rating.

A Pacific Northwest-based independent quintet, Tsavo's sound can be easily distinguished based on their aforementioned cover choices (a list that also includes Killswitch Engage's "The End of Heartache" and Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy): they play an accessible, melodic brand of tunes ideal for modern rock radio. With their diverse debut The Search, Tsavo deliver a compelling, refreshing listen, even if some of the ideas executed raise identity crisis red flags.

Tsavo's biggest strength is that they consistently sound like a cohesive unit despite The Search's rough-around-the-edges production. While a concession can be made that independent bands don't have the luxury of using top-of-the-line professional studios, drummer Sean Brown deserves to be acknowledged for engineering a record where the interwoven guitars, sturdy rhythm section, and classically-trained vocalist Cameron Mueller's soaring vocals can be heard with perspicuous clarity, even when the mix is unevenly translucent. The record's auspicious opener, "Campaign of Fear," establishes Tsavo's knack for crunching guitars with its feverishly-paced hammer-on/pull-off introduction (envision the Foo Fighters covering the intro of "94 Hours" by As I Lay Dying) that dives into the song's first verse. Mueller, Ryan Luke, and Jason Edwards are a tri-branded guitar attack, and the different elements each guitarist contributes to the verses and chorus is admirable. Brown and bassist Gus Winecoff provide a prevalent but not overly-domineering firmness with the rhythm section, complete with double bass, chromatic bass leads, and impeccable runs on the lower toms and cymbals. Mueller's vocal prowess is also notable, and his sardonic-vs.-hopeful balance ("When the day is done and the debt is paid, I'll watch as you lie in the bed you've made / . . . The truth will set you free... so pray for love and pray for peace / . . . Speak the truth and save your souls and ruin the lives of those you oppose") adds considerable weight to his imaginative metaphors that he uses throughout The Search.

Mueller sounds most similar to Ben Burnley (of Breaking Benjamin fame), but the Tsavo frontman's vocal merits absolutely stand on their own, and no track exemplifies this better than "Absence." With only a single arpeggiated guitar, Mueller's excellent vocal range is highlighted, even when he borders on nonsense rather than non-sequitur ("Listening to the reckoning of an angel who's lost in time / Not this time / I have every right / Reaching to grasp and take what's rightfully mine"). His elevated, higher range is ethereal, nearly haunting, which sets a perfect ambiance when he sings, "You will find my heart is not mine / Will my absence be unnoticed tonight, will my absence be unseen by your light?" While Mueller doesn't rely on vibrato or other distinct vocal mannerisms, there's no doubting his diaphragm strength and sustain - other vocal highlights "Lost and Forgotten," "Longing," and "Caught in Limbo."

Meanwhile, his bandmates are more than just merely competent at their instruments. In particular, Brown's work on The Search is impressive, employing multifarious techniques that all but confirm him as an accomplished drummer. Brown's transitions between verses and chorus, or bridge to final chorus, are as resolute as they are creative, but he seems to recognize that, sometimes, the "less is more" approach works well (for instance, the military-like snare rolls in "Journey's" verses add undeniable character to complement the effect-laden guitars) for Tsavo. Tsavo's guitarists rely pretty heavily on effects throughout The Search, especially distortion and delay, but their aptitude for constructing riffs that interplay well amongst one another and with the bass is a constant on the record - again, "Journey" and "Caught in Limbo" illustrate this point, as well as the 8:00+ epic "Turning the Page."

The Search's biggest downfall is its arbitrary bouts of identity crisis. "Flight" is the most glaring abomination on the album - the incessant chuggachuggachugga metalcore riffs and absolutely abysmal vocals (it doesn't matter if it's Mueller or two individuals known only as "Blair and Ty" in the liner notes, the putrid shrieks and hideous guttural growls are farcical and horribly out of place) make this a head-scratcher. What are Tsavo trying to accomplish with such a deplorable cut? It can't possibly be a tribute to any band that's influenced their sound, and if it's their attempt at iridescence, then it's an absurd, laughable effort (the same goes for "This is Goodbye," which is a sludgy, overly-distorted mess). One other criticism that can be levied is the same critique bestowed upon most modern rock acts: the insistence on formulaic songwriting structures. The Search features bountiful good ideas that could have been further explored instead of catering to a bland hard rock schema, such as the "urgent-sounding, heavy intro gives way to palm-muted arpeggios in the verse" schema. These fallback blueprints exist for a reason - they're tried-and-true - but a little more ingenuity and a little less reliance on these archetypes would have bolstered the record significantly.

After listening to The Search and digesting it over a long period of time, there's little doubt that Tsavo play an accessible brand of melodic alterna-rock with gusto and crunch. It would be intriguing to hear The Search re-recorded in a top-of-the-line recording studio, because some of the guitar lines could have really elevated some of the stagnant tracks and the drum and bass could rattle the subwoofer a bit more, but the rugged production adds to the album's charm. Tsavo should garner more accolades and successes the more they continue to promote their debut - it's to their advantage that they haven't celebrated their second 'birthday' as a band - and while there are some questionable songwriting ingredients on The Search, it is an interesting and engaging listen, and should they take the words of Calvin Coolidge to heart, continued persistence and determination should yield great things. - Jom @ Sputnikmusic.com


"Tsavo Live Review"

So I caught their show at Studio 7 in Seattle. Ben, their manager sends out texts to tell people when the shows are. So I figured, well this guy is at least burning text messages to get people out so that tells me he's motivated. "Sure, why not," I say to myself. I call up DvC and was like... so you want to do an interview and get some material up music4uTV? Well as you can read here we are.


Back to the review. I go to a lot of live shows, I even have friends who are in bands, I'm in a band myself (I'm not here to pump my band, so I guess you all will have to do some research on which band I'm in), and well there's a lot and I mean a lot of bands out there who suck. They suck not because I don't like them, they suck because 1.) They don't put time to get the basics of music down. 2.) They are in it because they want the "rockstar" lifestyle.


Now Tsavo is a completely different creature in my opinion. There's a movement that I've noticed in the NW rock scene. There are actually local bands that other local bands listen to and go out and see. These bands are in it because they like to play music. From what I've seen from Tsavo, they inspire this ideal.

Musicianship: I can say with confidence that these guys can write a great tune. They keep the groove going, and definitely have that "nod" factor. So being out on the floor I just didn't twiddle my thumbs (which I've been known to do if a band bores the crap out of me). They have a set of guitarists (Sean Brown, Ryan Luke) who know how to phrase and aren't afraid to be good at their art. This is a new experience for me being involved in the Seattle music scene. I can't think of how many times I've seen some guy with a PRS guitar and sound like absolute shit because he's making a fashion statement. Playing a PRS guitar doesn't make you as "hawt" as an ambercrapy and bitch model. So please pick up a scheter and learn how to play and when you get all grown up then buy a PRS.


Needless to say both guitarists impressed the crap out of me on their melodic compositions and how well they were able to complement and not compete with each other. I really dig the dual guitar parts. Its nice to hear that they don't always copy each other and that they understand how to compose with dual guitars effectively.


OH AND THANK YOU FOR WRITING SOMETHING IN SOMETHING OTHER THAN COMMON TIME!!! The drummer Jason Edwards, gets its props on the fact that he knows his rudiments and uses them properly to keep the crowd going.

Okay the bassist: Gus, this guy has a lot of energy, he bounces around but he also doesn't let that stagemanship get in the way of the performance.

Last but not least the vocalist. THANK YOU CAMERON SO MUCH FOR BEING ABLE TO SING AND NOT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE A SERIAL PIG RAPIST WHO gargles with drano. The vocals are tight, passionate and overall is a well made bridge between the music and the audience. I hope this vocalist continues to treat his voice well, its good to hear a balance between power and technique.

Showmanship: Remember how I said these guys don't sacrifice musical integrity for showmanship? Well vice versa is also true here. These guys move on stage and get the crowd pumped. They don't just stand there like some useless yuppie spawn thinking they don't have to move. You can tell they become the music visually. Which is refreshing to see the complete package.

Bottom Line: I needed 6 cigarettes to finally come down from their performance. No packets of oatmeal needed to clear an suck cause there wasn't any. - m4uTV


"Tsavo "The Search" (2)"

Thank God there are still some decent bands in the modern hard rock scene. It’s been a tough on and off battle for whether we’d see Nickelback, Hinder, Daughtry, and their brethren utterly dominate the popular rock scene with their more intelligent kin giving up, or if we’d see the continued insurrection of smart, catchy hard rock bands making inroads to give the genre at least a modicum of respect. Tsavo continues a trend of underground hard rock bands trying to push their way into the spotlight, even if only temporarily and to remind people that if you want to listen to rock music it doesn’t necessarily have to be utter crap.

Following in the footsteps of some of the other inspiring hard rock releases of this year, such as new efforts from 10 Years, The Butterfly Effect, and Rishloo, as well as a strong debut from Pitchblend, Tsavo serve up a hearty rock sounds with numerous influences ranging from A Perfect Circle to Chevelle. Eschewing the simple song structures of the moronic radio friendly rock bands, Tsavo craft songs that feel like they could be heard on a local hard rock radio station, but lacking the artificiality that seems to be needed to garner any prime airtime. Let’s just say they sound a little too introspective and moody to get the local shotgun toting, pickup driving, Pabst drinking meatheads reared up and ready to beat their girlfriends. Listening to anything off of The Search might make their heads hurt, not because it’s so “brootal dude!” but because it might make a synapse or two actually fire, something that doesn’t happen very often for the world of Hurt fans out there.

The focus of this band will easily be the crooning vocals of lead singer Cameron. It’s not too far of a stretch to hear a strong A Perfect Circle influence in the way he stretches his notes and draws out the length of the lyrics as he sings. If he were not as strong of a vocalist as he is, the album would fall quite flat, despite the talent of the rest of the band. In the melodic alt-rock world, if you don’t have a commanding vocalist, you just won’t make it. Period. And Cameron isn’t afraid to put himself out there as evidenced on the song “Absence”, in which he is backed only by acoustic guitars, letting him croon freely. Despite the very solid vocal performance throughout the album, there are a couple of small setbacks, mainly the couple of screamy growls thrown onto the album (see “Run” for a jarring example). They simply aren’t a natural addition to the band’s sound and are horribly out of place.

For the vast majority of the album, Tsavo stick to creating slower paced, methodical tracks, not too far from the structure that 10 Years employs. The influence is hard not to notice, but it shouldn’t come off as a negative criticism. It’s hard to think of a better modern hard rock act to look to for inspiration. You can also hear the influence in the way the album is paced — Tsavo are not afraid to shift gears from mellow to a full band assault back to slowing it down and then mixing it up from there. Doing this is often risky and can kill the flow of an album, but Tsavo pull it off and keep the album interesting up until near the close of the album. The tail end of the album loses a lot of steam and direction, but up unto that point the album is quite a compelling listen.

Now what’s really hard to believe is that Tsavo are currently unsigned and put The Search together independently. For an unsigned, independent band, there is a load of untapped potential and talent that could really be unleashed with a big studio treatment. Even without that, however, The Search feels full, hearty, and most importantly — mature. Many great things have come from Seattle in the past and the city has once again given us a band full of promise and talent.

--Rick Gebhardt - DecoyMusic.com


Discography

“The Search” - August 26th, 2008

"Lost & Forgotten" - On all major local radio and streaming online
"Journey" - On some major local radio
"Longing" - On local college radio and streaming online
All other tracks from "The Search" streaming online and featured on many online radio stations.

Photos

Bio

Seattle band Tsavo’s seductive brand of modern rock has quickly earned them a coveted reputation. Fronted by lead vocalist Cameron Mueller, the band’s members are guitarists Jason Edwards and Ryan Luke, bassist Gus Winecoff and drummer Sean Brown.

Tsavo had the distinction of having been honored in 2009 with receiving the award of runner-up in the category of “Social Justice” from Campus MusicFest, a respected entertainment industry confab featuring workshops that included prominent Hollywood movers and shakers. The voting committee lauded Tsavo’s song “Lost & Forgotten” as a highly eloquent modern rock composition whose message “tells the stories of those suffering from poverty and/or other social injustices.”

Tsavo, who have opened for respected rockers including Kings X (Atlantic), Taproot (Velvet Hammer/Victory), TrustCompany (Geffen), Royal Bliss (Capitol), and Vast (Elektra) have achieved respectability not only because of their memorable live performances, but also for having substance in their music and lyrics and the fierce musicianship to back it up.

Winecoff was nominated for “Best Bassist of 2010” on Comcast’s Hot Rocks television show aired in Seattle. Winecoff’s performances on stage have helped solidify Tsavo’s reputation for provocative live shows. Winecoff is literally a bassist that that will bend over backwards for his fans and he takes it to a new extreme. A seasoned yoga practitioner, Winecoff entrances his live audiences, playing bass riffs while he is bent over backwards, with his head touching the floor. Winecoff says that Tsavo is not just about style. He notes there is a message that Tsavo’s fans get when listening to the band. “Think for yourself. Open your mind. We think our music hits that place that gives them a sense of freedom that only comes from rock and roll.”

Mueller observes, “Sometimes I think the audience sees themselves in our music.” A classically trained vocalist, his mother was a vocal coach who vehemently disapproved of her son pursuing to a career in rock music. However, Mueller followed his heart and his vocal chords. The band includes their rock and roll philosophies and past experiences in their music in a way that fans can relate to. With hearts and minds of steel, or perhaps hard rock and metal, the lyrics are a beckoning part of the intensity Tsavo’s modern rock offers.

In 2008, Tsavo independently released their first full length album, entitled “The Search” which contains twelve tracks. Of the song “Absence”, Mueller explains that he had a “lightening rod moment” that permanently ended his past drug use. The song is “about my crossroads. It is a representation of what my path was going to be. It’s about a journey I went on in a very small amount of time that was life-changing.” He adds, “The fact that I’ve had people tell me that they pulled out of something, and that song helped them get through that period in their life, is very gratifying to me.”

Always rocking hard but thinking deeply, Mueller reflects on his lyrics, explaining that true honesty can only come from inside. “Lost & Forgotten” is one of the band’s songs that came from deep within. “I came to the realization that there were so many things that I had thought I believed, things that I had been taught, and things I had been told to believe, but what I really believed was quite the opposite.”

The pensive vocalist adds, “The only way you can really have a true opinion of reality and yourself and of what is going on is to get rid of all the other perspectives that can pollute your mind. Take the opinions and perspectives out that come from outside influences, and realize for yourself what you truly believe to be real.” Mueller refers to one of Tsavo’s lyric lines, “If I break out, will I be on my own?” This self-inquiry, laced with the power of rock and roll, is what Tsavo is all about.

With style, substance, musicianship and songwriting skills to match, the fans are rocking out and listening to Tsavo, while, Mueller notes, “they’re also taking something away from it at the same time. People get different meanings from our songs, but they’re definitely listening and that’s the important thing.”