Paragon Theorem – Bound By Gravity – Album Review
Waaaaaaaay back in 2015, Paragon Theorem burst out of Hartford, CT, onto our pages here for the first time when we checked out the five-piece band’s Inkwell album, much to the delight of our stereo system. Not only did that record make a hard-hitting impact initially, it left one that lasted long beyond. Of all the many albums, EPs, singles, videos, etc. etc. out there in the world, I feel like I rarely have time to play much of anything at all beyond what I’m currently checking out…I might get the luxury of spinning something several times while writing up a review for the site, but once everything is written & posted, it’s far too often a case of ‘onto the next’ and it can be tough to get back to even the greatest of tunes, depending on the workload. Tough…but not impossible, given the ears have the right incentive.
Because it wasn’t just another case of ‘onto the next’ with Paragon Theorem’s Inkwell – it’s the kind of record that had the power to make you sit up and pay some damn attention. It exposed a band that was well on their way to solidifying their own identifiable place in music and carving out a name for themselves. I suppose it’s fair to say I never stopped listening since I first heard the band, though I’ve probably written well over a 1000 reviews since hearing that record back in 2015 and their new album Bound By Gravity now in 2019. And before you get ready to call bullshit on that, I’ll cite reference-A, a 2017 episode of the SBS Podcast that featured Paragon Theorem’s cut “Control” – and reference-B, a 2018 episode of the SBS Podcast that had their track “Oculus” from Inkwell on it too. Make no mistake, I’ve been turning up Paragon Theorem loud’n’proud for some time now…and I’ve been STOKED to check out the new record here in review with ya – so let’s do this thang!
I should also point out just how thoughtful they are as well. Did I mention that Bound By Gravity comes out on my birthday, January 25th? I don’t know what the rest of you got me this year, but right now I think Paragon Theorem probably rendered the other presents I might receive completely obsolete. They’re being super coy about it all…apparently it COULD be coincidence…maybe…but maybe not! I sure as shit know exactly what I’ll be tellin’ my homies that’s for sure…I’ll be big ballin’ all like, ‘yo – Paragon Theorem released a new record for my birthday’ like it’s a verifiable fact. How cool am I?
“Singularity” is instant excitement, big on crunch, and a full reminder that Paragon Theorem will have been worth the wait between records. An amalgamation of the influences that have paved the path before them, you’ll hear things like Alice In Chains or Incubus-esque sounds drive many of these tunes. Great low-end rumble in this tune provided by the gripping bass from Eric Rosier slayin’ it in behind the bright lead-guitar tones from Steve Delesdernier adding in the character to the music on top; “Singularity” builds with palpable intensity, even after coming in hot at about an eleven to start, they take it all to a fourteen real quick as the song plays on. Smart decisions like the effects & sound of the vocals in the second verse, the vibrant tones of the guitar solo, and Paragon Theorem’s ability to pound out the energy from all five pillars of strength their band possesses all add up to a wicked first impression. LOVING the harmonies boys! Sounding truly fantastic on the mic right off the bat on “Singularity,” Paragon Theorem starts their new record out with a fiery burst of brilliance and full-proof of how this band continually raises the stakes for their own sound – the kind of song & first impression that immediately reveals how much work they’ve been putting in behind the scenes to take it all to the next-level on Bound By Gravity with a sonically-supercharged dose of maximum audio entertainment.
Clever writing like you’ll hear on “The Bottom” both lyrically and structurally, deserves a real shout out. I think a track like this would be strong enough on paper alone to rock you right – the mere fact that they’ve brought it to life so exceptionally well in their recording & performance is the cherry on top. Paragon Theorem displays serious professional control on the strength of “The Bottom” and never lets this track get away from them, even at its wildest with lead-guitarist Steve taking this tune for a serious rip up & down the fretboard. There’s a great chance I’d be looking into “The Bottom” as a great candidate for a lead-single & gateway to lead the people into Bound By Gravity – it’s a track that’s built upon strength after strength. The verse is great, the chorus is rock-solid, the instrumentation is BEASTLY, and of all things, it might have actually been what you’d consider the pre-chorus that might have come out with the biggest hooks – how many times do you end up writing that as a reviewer? But that’s the depths of a song like “The Bottom” – limitless really. Whether it’s the killer energy of the music or the cleverness in how the vocals work throughout this second cut, you’ll find tons here to love. The drums from Josh Ingraham keep this track fired-up and controlled at the same time…dude can fill the space like no one’s business when he’s at his most busy and he totally gets when to back off a bit to let the rest of the instrumentation or vocals shine around the beat. Great imagery in the lyrics that completely suit the vibe…and perhaps the best ingredient of all is that intangible magic they share between them as a band that creates the tightness in their movements & such a unified sound. However you want to describe what you’ll hear, I think we’ll all conclude “The Bottom” is one extremely strong cut on Bound By Gravity and a massive highlight early on in their new record.
As I’ve often said at these pages…Hard Rock is where you’ll find me most often being a Hard Ass; it’s a genuinely tough genre to stand out in, make sound new, or even accessible in many cases. Listening to their title-track “Bound By Gravity,” I think I had to take a second or two just to acknowledge the killer job this entire five pieces does in keeping us entertained and interested in what they create. Smart ideas like the flow of Brian Moore’s vocal melodies or the way they’ve added a decent dose of reverb to create that wide-open feeling you’ll find in the chorus…it can be all the little things they do quite often that add up to results all so much more than just featuring one or two powerful contributors to a song. Give the man some real credit though – the moment you hear him wind through that first hook around the fifty-five second, I mean…you can FEEL this one. With the band in lock-step in behind him, working the stop/start magic brilliantly, the dynamics of “Bound By Gravity” are bound to pull you in – I love that right in behind that exceptional pre-chorus (again!) and one of Moore’s best-written melody-lines, you’ll find a guitar hook from Steve that’s equally strong. And ultimately, I think that’s an impressive route to go & speaks volumes on behalf of what Paragon Theorem puts into their music – there are hooks everywhere from the lefts to the rights – and meaty ones. Title-worthy tune for sure.
Love the work they’ve done on the harmonies as well…it really matters on cuts like “Butanna” – which, I might just have a genuine soft spot for, or it might actually be the most universal highlight in the first four. Credit to rhythm guitarist Dan Field for filling those in…at least I think that’s him, he’s credited with the backing vocals, so I’m going with that as my final answer, though I’d assume for much of the recorded material, chances are Brian’s doing a lot of those himself as well while he’s got the mic to lay down the lead anyway. Complex & challenging to play – it’s also a seriously creative cut that brings out some of their best without question. I think it’s a huge highlight for Moore’s vocals from beginning to end – he finds different gears for the verse & chorus that really hit the mark impressively…the character in his voice throughout the verse is exceptional and the chorus has him belting it out like the very best of’em. Instrumentation-wise, you know this band has it covered, they always do. Like right around the 3:12-ish mark…good lord…the solo that Steve will go on…jaw dropping stuff, truly…and technically this part probably reaches further back towards the 2:45-mark, lasting for nearly a full minute. Brilliant switches right from the get-go though, listen to the way they weave acoustic/electric together as the song begins…smooth AF. I’m addicted to “Butanna” and proud to be so.
Paragon Theorem really shines through their exceptional balance between what would appeal to the musician’s-musician & what the everyday listeners audibly needs in order to want to stick around. “Combustion” is a great example of that, but truthfully, every song before it so far would also qualify; my point is, listen to the fact that they’re always willing to make genuine time for the instrumentation to have its moment and make an impact musically, just as much as they give time to the vocals & hooks. For many people like myself, this can be that difference between something ordinary & something extraordinary, you feel me? I could definitely see the potential single-wise as well here…I think that chorus is going to be memorable for many people; they might not grab every word at first but they’ll definitely remember the pattern, flow, and addictively catchy sound it has. The disadvantages “Combustion” have single-wise in its complex timing & instrumentation are equal advantages to those looking for a lil’ bit more than what the radio’s ever going to have to offer ya. You’ll get more than enough hooks of all kinds from the music to the microphone on “Combustion,” and you’ll find that this five minute-plus track never wants to sit still, working a vibrant versatility that’ll keep you plenty entertained & reaching for the volume to turn this mother UP.
“The Heist” gives you a genuine caper to chew on thematically and a massively different direction for the Paragon Theorem sound right in the middle of their record, heading into full-on acoustic territory. Brilliant mix of haunting beauty that hangs in the air, the guitars sparkle gorgeously & eerily at the same time – you can feel the danger in the atmosphere that surrounds you on “The Heist.” Creatively, this tiny tune actually ends up feeling like a lot more of a reach for Paragon Theorem in many ways – and I mean that in the best of ways. It’s not always easy for the hard rockers out there to dial it back and create as mystifying a moment in time as this track becomes; you gotta give’em credit for a remarkable & mesmerizing shift in sound here. Spellbinding really. At the halfway point of Bound By Gravity, I think “The Heist” also marks the start of a drift towards tunes that’ll focus on melody even more throughout the second half of the record. Vocally and lyrically, they’ve done a completely exceptional job here from the stunning harmonies & background vocals to the whispered voices trailing in behind them. Combined with the ever-fascinating melody from the guitars floating through the air, “The Heist” is a smart switch in sound that’s enormously effective for how subtle the song really is at its core.
Crashing into full-gear, “A.P.B.” follows-up “The Heist” in what seems/sounds-like a potential second part of the story or at least logical conclusion. Dig the overall intensity and movement of “A.P.B.” – it’s another seriously strong & ambitious cut throughout its length with a verse that’s already plenty entertaining enough before shifting its way into next-level ideas in the chorus. For REAL – like, someone throw some cold water on Steve will ya? This dude is scorching HOT on “A.P.B.,” full-stop. I think when you listen to things like how he’ll light it up right underneath the vocals of the chorus hooks and how a track like this can somehow retain its accessibility while flexing such musical muscle at the same time is truly impressive. Moore is reaching into a nearly operatic performance of his own to create the melody in the chorus – and the contrast in how he’s approached both of the song’s main elements verse/chorus-wise is spot-on once again. The energy of the verse & instrumentation grips & rips, tears & shreds – but that all-encompassing vibe they create surrounding you through the chorus is just straight-up magnificent. I mean look…I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve heard so far on Bound By Gravity and rightly so…but having said that, every time “A.P.B.” came on, I seemed to become easily convinced this could very well be the gem of the entire record right here in this moment. You know what? I’m gonna take it one step further here – I’m positive this is one of the best cuts from the entire Paragon Theorem catalog. There. I said it.
Brian’s had several noteworthy moments on Bound By Gravity – he deserves another shout-out for the powerful dynamics & bold tones he brings to the mic on “Charade” – and give the ol’ bassist Eric some serious credit for packing a ton of punch into the sound of this song as well. The breakdown heading towards the 2:45 mark is probably one of my favorite switches or transitions on this entire record…it’s a moment in time you can’t help but notice. Really smart tune to take as much of its length on instrumentally – especially after Brian has some real highlight moments of his own to remember on the mic…taking him away might have been a tough call for other bands, but not Paragon Theorem. Definitely impressed with Moore’s drift into the falsetto notes when he chooses to go that route like he has in several tunes, but noticeably on “A.P.B.” and “Charade” back-to-back, you really appreciate the effect it has on the overall sound of these songs. Probably one of the more Incubus-like cuts in some ways, but you’ll get a bit of early Soundgarden in there too…and then, yeah…I mean, whatever they’ve got going on in the breakdown is completely their own and though short, serves as a massive highlight on “Charade.” Ultimately, it’s just another extremely tight tune that puts musicianship & songwriting right in the spotlight, revealing what a multi-threat a band like Paragon Theorem truly is – awesome cut.
“There” is damn near like POP for Paragon Theorem! Alright…that’s probably pushing the description a bit TOO far…but you’ll absolutely notice the band open up and let a bit more light into the cracks of Hard Rock with the melody running rampant & free throughout “There.” Vocal hooks are wonderfully strong, but make no mistake, the music might be more gentle, but it’s every bit as bulletproof as you want it to be. I ain’t gonna lie to ya – I got snared in this honey trap quickly & willingly…it’s got a sweet mix of dreamy & hazy sound that sparks up with inspiring & uplifting energy along the way. “There” is really like a breath of fresh air from an open window – everything about this track just seems to fit right where it should without any hesitation at all, resulting in one seriously crafty cut that retains a wonderfully organic sound at the same time. Honestly…this track was a really great move on Paragon Theorem’s behalf – it’s a totally lighter-side sound for them, but the kind so effective and well-suited to them that they’ll definitely want to examine this one close-up, because people are gonna love this tune for sure. Those guitars are so incredibly warm, comforting, and inviting…the vocal melody is spot-on for what this song really needed…the hooks are ones that listeners will completely latch onto. “There” is brilliantly smooth, charming, artistic, and massively accessible…it’s a real quaint & beautiful moment in time.
“Marvel” was probably the tune that I had the most questions about…I had a strange relationship to this track. On the one hand, I think the whole low-end infused sound & melody of this song, the pace, space, and movement from the music to the microphone all really stack up to incredible results here. I suppose the biggest question became whether or not the actual use of the word “Marvel” could be the powerful hook they’re seeking and whether or not it would connect with the people out there. My gut tells me it’s what you’d consider an outlier…”Marvel” as a word, is a tough sell in the sense that really not too many people use it anymore outside of the context of the Avengers. So in a way…it’s kind of like asking listeners to latch onto a buzz-word…same effect…you kinda end up having to agree with that as the choice of wording & believe it’s a word strong enough to carry the hook to go with this one. I like the way Moore sings the verse, I’ve got a lot of love for that…I love the way he phrases & frames his words. The guitars, bass, and drums – I mean c’mon, they’re all still killin’ it just as focused & tightly as they have been throughout the entire record…and that guitar tone around the 3:40-mark is like get-outta-town good, leading into one of the more badass & intricate solos on the record. So don’t get me wrong, still a whole plethora of reasons to love “Marvel,” but it did feel somehow like this one tune might have the odds stacked against it just 10% more than any other on the record.
The opening guitars into the last song “Wanted (Acoustic)” make an immediate impression for sure – that’s an immaculate sound & start to this tune. Loved the way the vocals started to call/answer in the middle – that was a great last move on the mic that counted for a lot in this last experience. Guitars are 100% killer and stuffed with brilliant tone, technique, and texture as they play this one without the help of Josh’s usual thunder coming from the throne or the rumble of Eric’s bass; they strip this tune right back to its bare bones and genuinely show you how powerful a delicate approach can be on “Wanted (Acoustic).” Love the return to what sounds almost like a classical or Spanish-influenced sound to the vibe in the guitars that began the song with a minute to spare still…dig the distance that Moore will add into a few of the lines before surging back into the main chorus hooks close-up once more before the end. Paragon Theorem has proven they can go big plenty throughout the album, but they’ve really allowed many facets of their sound to evolve in their slower & more stripped-down tunes as well.
STOKED to have these guys back and sounding so at the top of their game once again. I think Bound By Gravity delivers enormously on raising the stakes from where Inkwell left us off – existing fans of the band are going to be fuckin’ ecstatic about how far this band has pushed themselves creatively on this new album – and as for the rest of you out there listening, you’ll be sure to want to find your own seat on the Paragon Theorem bandwagon and follow this band wherever they end up going next. Killer job guys.
Find out more about Paragon Theorem at their official homepage and stay up to-date on the details of the official drop of Bound By Gravity on January 25th by clicking here: http://paragontheorem.com