Daniel Ray – The Balance
Daniel Ray – The Balance – Album Review
Alright…so…bear with me…today I’ve got an artist in review here, but I’ve literally no clue about much beyond the music. I can tell you Daniel Ray seems to be an extremely chill & nice guy when you talk to him, that much I can say…but that’s all through messages onscreen; silly me, I didn’t think to ask for any direct site info – and looking up Daniel Ray isn’t quite as easy as you might think through the sea of personal pages from around the globe! So…even though I’ve got every indication to lead me to believe that Daniel Ray is coming to us from Australia…I’ve also seen Daniel Ray pages in the UK and many others as well that made me wonder which one I might be hearing or if it was any of the pages I was looking-up at all! I’m sure you’ll agree when you get into The Balance though…that’s a strong Aussie accent buried underneath the confidence in the delivery of the rap-verses from Ray throughout the album…isn’t it? It’s gotta be!
Anyhow…I’m here for the music…that’s the most relevant part about anything I’d have to say here anyway! So we’ll keep it focused on that, which shouldn’t be too difficult – the songs on Daniel Ray’s album are MASSIVELY captivating and delivered with an aggressive energy to the emotion that is completely compelling and entirely gripping throughout the hooks and lyrics on The Balance. All that being said…sometimes it’s easier for some artists to disguise their influences than it will prove to be for others; in particular, almost no one has it harder than the white-guys of rap – the almost all-too-instant comparison to Eminem is nearly almost always going to happen whether it’s accurate or not – quite often it’s all indie-journalists even know to reference. In the case of Daniel Ray however – this comparison is entirely accurate…and completely impressive in how close some of the same skills and delivery come into play throughout this record. There are moments where Ray sounds identical to Em – and other moments where you can tell he’s conscious of that and making his move to break away from those comparisons to define his own place in music. The overall result is that The Balance has been struck with extraordinary precision…there’s enough of a nod to an obvious influence/hero, but more than enough of the REAL Daniel Ray stamped all over this record to let you know exactly who he is with an impact you’ll certainly remember.
If you don’t know the music of Daniel Ray yet – then the first “Intro” would actually throw you a little! From the way we had talked briefly in behind the scenes here…it was a completely unexpected sound – and for a moment I thought I might have actually had a classical-pianist on our hands! “Intro” is a gorgeous beginning and flows fluidly into “Move On” as Ray steps into the spotlight to make his presence felt on the mic instantly. He’s taken another cue from Em here in this sense…his best songs always came through an intense emotional pairing between the music and the aggression in his tone – here on “Move On” with the piano-line leading to a melodic-hook in the chorus-sample with strings…all assembled perfectly and produced to flow together and blend seamlessly. Speaking of seamless – check out the verse from Ray – the guy is literally and audibly perfect – he’s killing the mic with confidence in material that deserves it; “Move On” will impress immediately and The Balance continues to capture your attention throughout the rest to follow.
Again…the flow is impeccable as it shifts into the guitar-fueled music that rips through “Tired Of Fighting” before it shrinks to piano and a truly clever/simple guitar-riff & beat that are highly effective in behind this emcee as he confidently grips the mic and delivers more stellar verse. You hear that rasp of Em’s approach echoing in the harder-edge of Daniel’s rap…you also hear the accent of his homeland on this track more than most…The Balance once again, achieved. Complete with a seriously wicked female-led chorus-hook, “Tired Of Fighting” makes logical, audible-sense all the way through from the lyrics to the structure and progression of the entire song. Daniel Ray clearly has an incredible sense of how to fuel his material with seriously intense dynamics that load the music and words with extra-punch to make that memorable impact song after song.
Although the entire album certainly reflects a lot on Daniel’s own personal perspective & life-experience, you can’t help but hear how personal the album becomes in “Get Back” and “You Know” coming back-to-back. “Get It Back” smartly switches the vibe of the record slightly with bright, bursting horns rocking the chorus hook and putting the soul into the vocal-sample. Detailing heartbreak and the consequences of commitment, “Get It Back” has some of the best lyrics you’ll find on the record, largely due to the personalized narrative being so close to home…as a result, the heartbreak and realizations sound completely REAL to us as listeners as Ray bends his words to fit the meter with precision, passion and smoldering-emotions. Flowing like a perfect mix-tape right into “You Know” – Ray delivers another punch to relationships and love with a track that speaks more to the aftermath of the situation in “Get It Back.” The beat is more melancholy…still captivating – his sample choice is flawless; but you’ll notice though there’s despair, there’s also a large vibe of hope and several knowledge-bombs dropping that let you know even the worst of situations and heart-splitting moments in life eventually work out for the better somehow. That contrast…reality vs. what reality can BE…exists all over this record – could The Balance have been replaced by a more perfect name for this record? – I think not.
“Running Away” has a powerful chorus…a solid breakdown & bring-back…but overall I think the song is slightly a victim of placement. I feel like it should somehow pack more of an impact than it does where it sits on this record…the back-to-back double-shot of personal songs on “Get It Back” and “You Know” would have been tough to follow as it was…but the punched-up mix of “Still Here” following “Running Away” only makes it harder for this track to stand out the way that it should. But in all seriousness…having listened to this record as many times as humanly possible within about 48 hours or so – ALL of these songs have the depth and hooks to truly catch on and be successful…so how do you go about choosing the layout of a record with that kind of problem? Your guess is as good as mine – I’ve never written an album as good as this so I have no clue! In a sense, “Running Away” kind of does well to provide a slight break in the intensity…but it’s not like the song itself backs it off…I think it might be the mix on this one – it’s a bit darker overall, but you’ll hear the minute that “Still Here” starts up that there was something a little lifeless in the mix of “Running Away” just beforehand. It happens – give the guy a break! The material is still killer and so is the song…that’s what matters most & never forget it!
“But I rap like it’s the reason I breathe” – I mean…C’MON – that’s a killer line! You can find that one in “Still Here,” which is a track all about not taking no for an answer, pushing past any haters or doubters and kicking all-the-ass on the way to the very top. The aggressive-tone to the energy in Daniel’s vocals matches the intent of the lyrics perfectly – he needed to spit this one with that extra grit of determination to really add the weight to the words and make us believe, like we should be. And for the record…people can compare this guy to Eminem all they want to as far as I’m concerned…the comparisons are boldly ever-present, but the fact remains that Em is one of the best of the best around and for D-Ray to be keeping such an impressive comparison so consistently is a testament to the amount of skills he has. If I were him…as obvious as a comment as it’s going to be from all of us reviewers out there, I’d eat it up – it’s meant as nothing but the highest of compliments by anyone that mentions it.
“More Than Enough” combines one of the more rhythmic-verses on The Balance as Ray works his precision magic-on-the-mic once again. Dude should be seriously proud of the way he’s repped himself on this record – he’s been flawless throughout and you can audibly tell just how much work he’s put in to make this all come out perfectly, track after track. All killer, no filler…as they say. “More Than Enough” has charismatic qualities to the hooks in both the verse and the chorus that keep you wanting more of this cut…and if the final tracks weren’t so damn good too, I’d continue on and on about this one. “More Than Enough” is a definite highlight on the record and a real switch in gears once again as Daniel Ray ramps-up the final tunes to really make this album end with massive impact.
Drifting perfectly into “Segue” from “More Than Enough,” it’s all laid out perfectly once again to head from the heavy-atmosphere and melody in “Segue” into “Grey Clouds” with flawless transitions making this entire experience on The Balance never let your attention leave it once to even get coffee or a snack of some sort. Seriously guys…I can see the bottom of my coffee cup for the first time in years…but I’m not leaving until this record finishes… Daniel put in the work and focused hard…it’s only fair I do the same I figure – so empty cup be damned, I’m finishing this article and putting this out there to spread the word on this talented emcee…caffeine can wait – his music amps me up plenty enough.
His sense of space, timing and placement of the lyrics are all so key in making his own style take shape. “Grey Clouds” is a fantastic example of some of the most of the Daniel Ray sound, intent and emotional-depth that you’ll find in his music and words. Another potentially smart cue from wise ol’ Em – one of the greatest moves that guy ever made was being 1000x more personal within his material than any other artist out there…and when Ray does the same like on “Grey Clouds” you can hear that extra strength reinforced in his tone and lyrics to back the power of the emotions behind the subject. Daniel has an extraordinary gift of being able to really translate how he feels into music – and as a result, we feel it too like we’re right there with him. “Grey Clouds” is an incredible mix of swirling emotions and the entire song really ties the theme, mood, atmosphere and performance perfectly into one.
However impressive this entire journey through The Balance might have been – I think the track that summed it all up, the track that really brings it ALL together as one from ideas to execution…is really right here at the end of the record with “Freedom.” I mean…for me, this ALL works; I’m a massive fan of The Cure and this sample sounds straight off of one of their records or at least from that same time period…updated with incredible ideas on the drums fueling an intensity that becomes quickly undeniable. Emancipation comes along with this final moment on The Balance – you know that Daniel Ray has left behind ANY doubts at this point in his life/career and he is COMING. Not even remotely joking – stand back and watch the fuck out ‘cause this guy is pushing forward at full-speed…you either join in the party or you’re potentially going to get mowed right over on this guy’s way through towards the top. “Freedom” sounds exactly as the intent of the lyrics and build of the entire album has intended it to – it’s an extraordinary payoff to a stunning record.
You’ll spend some time wondering on those first spins through the record as to when Daniel Ray’s tank will finally run dry…and it never freakin’ does, not even for a moment. From those first seconds of gripping the mic on “Move On” to the final breakthrough and massive highlight of “Freedom” – The Balance never let up for a second in the quality of its song-writing and severe personal-depths. A brave & bold record with raw & real emotion on display, nestled in sharply amongst intense music and smart-samples – every song on the album and every moment of The Balance, is a moment to remember.