Good Luck Valiant – The Darkness – EP Review
I remember when my old man went to an editor for the first time, ready to start his writing career. He walked in, he sat down, the dude said alright, gimme your pitch, to which my dad started out with, “you see, I’ve got this trilogy in the works…” before getting cut off right then & there.
“A trilogy?” the editor asked. “How do I even know you can write one book yet?”
The point being made is fair from both sides it could be looked at. Obviously as an artist of any kind, you wanna have some vision – that’s an asset for sure; but the flipside of that coin is that ambition can get the better of us if we’re not careful. To the editor’s credit, he was actually completely correct in his assumption back then – as far as I know, to this very day, my old man has still only written the one book, potentially out of the three he was looking to write. That was…jeez…maybe twenty-five years ago now?
So when you see that The Darkness EP by Good Luck Valiant came out back in 2017, that it’s the debut record by this band, and that we’re still awaiting the second-half of its conclusion…sure…those thoughts of the past flashed through my mind. The project’s centerpiece of artist Dylan Hoey hasn’t kept us waiting twenty-five years of course, but the question is still a justifiable one when it’s been nearly four years – when are we getting the second-half of this story? Will there even BE a second-half of the story – or is it like so many other bands & artists out there that start something special never to be finished? I do have good news on that front…which I suspect is the real reason I’m here reviewing a record from four years ago – from what it sounds like, that new EP from Good Luck Valiant ain’t too far off by now. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I have heard rumblings that it is coming soon enough…so if you’ve been hanging on since 2017 wondering where all this goes…hang on just a lil’ longer – the answer is on the way. But it did get me thinking about whether or not declaring something like a two-part EP at the very outset of a career as a debut record would end up putting some kind of extraordinarily undue pressure on making the second half. Suppose you wanted to write about something else? Now you feel like you’re locked into a concept with a commitment you gotta stick to…and in the meantime, whereas perhaps a ton of music could potentially be made, you might end up treading water until you’ve finally finished the idea you started long ago, whether you’re even still into it or not, just because it was declared & put out there, you know what I mean? Ask authors like Stephen King (Dark Tower series), or J.K. Rowling (Harry whatever guy), or George R.R. Martin (Game of blah-blah-blah) – starting something can be not only easier, but extremely enticing – finishing something is a whole other story altogether.
That being said, I mean…you can’t argue much against the way the record begins, that’s for sure. If you wanna hear how to make an impact on a listener & quickly establish some genuine interest, the all-instrumental opening of “Home” should hit the spot for ya. Not only does Good Luck Valiant instantly display significant chops on the guitar that can’t be denied, but also a high-level of smart production – as in, I was damn near as blown away by how impressive the recording is as I was with the skills on display musicianship-wise. And while I get it…a few of you out there assume it’s all as easy as hitting the button on ProTools or pushing record…I assure ya, it’s not – getting the clarity into the mix like you’ll find on “Home” at the start is no easy task…shout-outs to Pat Hanlin mastering, John Zebley recording, and Anchour Studio for their efforts…everything stacks up super strong here and generates a solid first impression. Dylan’s got skills on the guitar that would be audible to anyone out there listening and can certainly riff his way through the fret-board when he’s so inclined – “Home” gives you a taste of the high-level of musicianship you’ll find on The Darkness EP without the interference of anything else – and personally, I think that was a really good move. You can get away with a lot in the opening slot of any record; “Home” feels & sounds like more than an intro, but it also helps Good Luck Valiant save a few other things to reveal later on down the road as well by giving you a taste of what it’s capable of without revealing everything all at once. Stellar tone to the guitars…like, truly exquisite stuff when it comes right down to it, and this performance/recording gets every sonic morsel out of it all for you to enjoy – “Home” should have no problem getting your attention for both the skill & sound you’ll discover at the very beginning of The Darkness…I could pretty much listen to Dylan riff it out all damn day, every day, & the thunderous beats supplied by Drake Thompson are the perfect complement to his overall vibe.
“Dark Passenger” has a bit of a Jimmy Eat World flavor to it…perhaps comparatively at least at their most intense anyhow – Good Luck Valiant has most noticeable edge & crispness working in favor of the music here. If I had to hazard a guess, which keep in mind, absolutely no one ever asks me to do but I always do anyway…I’d tell ya my theory is that this cut is at least partially based on Dexter…or inspired by or whatever, you get the idea. I can’t confirm this theory 100%…I’m just putting it out there. If you’re a fan of the series, you know that Dexter referred to the malevolent side of his personality as his “Dark Passenger” – and if you’re looking & listening to these lyrics by Dylan like I am…I’m just saying, it all kind of seems to have a possibility of being the twisted roots of the lyricism/title here. In any event, even if it’s not the correct theory, you still might find the whole concept of this cut eerily similar at the very least…the whole internal struggle…at least that what it seems like to me. Furthermore…I mean…I don’t know what kind of demons Dylan’s battling over there, but they sure sound like they need to be contained for the good of us all! It does all fit with the concept he’s laid out for the two EPs that create this full story, which largely centers around “a person’s escape from the darkness in his/her heart and soul and finding out that the light is actually inside the whole time.” Think of a track like “Dark Passenger” as Custer’s last stand, only taking place inside of you…some people wrestle with the darkness more than others, make no mistake…Dylan’s got this track detailed with gritty imagery that’ll confirm the struggle is indeed, every bit as real as they say it is. To his credit, lyrically, not only is he working within a strong set of metaphors that connect, but from the sounds of things by the end of it all, he’s recognizing he’s got what it takes to hold his ground and battle back the darkness into submission. Personally, I dig this…and quite a bit if I’m being truthful with ya – I think that a song like “Dark Passenger” stands out as a whole, rather than for any one specific element or piece. Whether it’s the writing or the confidence in the musicianship, the ingredients are all in the right places you wanna find’em. My main question right now would be as to whether or not “Dark Passenger” has that one specific hook that is gonna draw people in…and on that part I’m not as sure. There’s no rules that say a song has gotta be that way of course, but the other side of that coin is that you end up with a really well balanced cut that musicians are gonna dig, & the masses might have a harder time finding their way in. Right now, I’m hearing concepts, lyrics, and instrumentation that leads the way…which ultimately results in really high-quality tunes that stay interesting from start to finish…the chorus gets close to a defined hook that people will remember, but it’s more of an energy thing than it would be a melody thing, you feel me? As I listened, I kept coming back to the magnificent level of confidence that “Dark Passenger” is played with, the mastery of the musicianship, and how bold & crisp everything sounds; to me, these are all strong positives and create an experience I wanna stick with…but I will admit, I’m not everybody.
Tell us how you really feel Dylan! “ReRun City” paints a grim picture of the story at work here, and also posits an incredibly all-too-relatable feeling from the imagery in the words of a world you might recognize much more than you wanna admit to. Dylan takes on a lot conceptually here within the short timeframe of less than three & a half minutes…he’s battling against celebrity culture, television’s hold on our minds, the Groundhog Day effect on what it’s like to live on earth…there’s a lot here to work with and he’s thriving at the peak of his energy & melody on this cut as well. I’d make an argument that the most memorable hooks in any tune that you’re gonna find are in the music itself of “Anxiety” to follow, but as a whole, vocally, I felt like you got a seriously solid dose of Dylan’s potential here. Dude’s got everything in the right place when it comes to how the songs are structured…I think there’s still room to make more of an impact from the microphone if I’m being entirely honest with the guy; I like the performances and I feel like he’s got nothing stopping him from pretty much achieving anything he sets his mind to based-on all that I’ve heard so far, but yeah…he can still find a bit more beef to bring to the hooks in the vocal-department, should he choose to go that route. Infusing this track with a bit more Punk spirit & attitude at its core, Good Luck Valiant cranks up the heat & the amplifiers as they rip their way through this track at full speed and tear society the proverbial ‘new one’ in the process. In terms of overall accessibility and what the masses out there will likely latch onto the most, I’d be looking at “ReRun City” as the most single-worthy cut in the lineup in that regard…mind you, Good Luck Valiant is probably thinking more towards the future and their next record at this point. Good LORD do I hope this lineup stayed intact though! It might just be two dudes at the end of the day, but Drake and Dylan prove time & again to be a sonic force to be reckoned with – I love the solo in this song, and in general, I absolutely think the chemistry they display between them is the kind of stuff you just can’t teach. Stand back & let these guys do what they do…like I always tell ya, it’s only natural that we’re gonna hear points in any artist or band at the outset of their career that could potentially evolve – and that’s a damn good thing – but at the same time, acknowledge the fact that if this is where things start for Good Luck Valiant, that this band is in extraordinary shape for the future to come with virtually limitless opportunities ahead of’em with the insane level of passion, dedication, and musicianship they’ve got.
Those guitars at the beginning of “Anxiety” are freakin’ awesome, and the drums from Drake have been a continual asset throughout this entire EP as well – dude really beats the life out of a skin y’all! It really is an interesting record to me all-around…I’m interested to hear what other people might have thought about this EP back when it first came out in 2017 and how they feel like it holds up now, just as the second-half of this two-record set is about to be released soon. I still feel a lot like I did in listening to “Dark Passenger” earlier on, where I’m wondering if there’s a real defined hook that the people out there can latch onto…the people that ain’t musicians themselves, that is. Because honestly, I think if you have ever held an instrument in your lifetime, you’ll hear the attraction, appeal, and allure towards Good Luck Valiant without any obstacles – chances are, you’re gonna absolutely love the way this album has been played. The passion is non-stop, and Good Luck Valiant is INTO IT, without question – and I personally absolutely love that about this band…there really aren’t that many records you could point to that would rival the amount of dedication that’s been put into the execution you’ll find here on this EP, and that’s a major positive to take away from this experience. The concern really almost becomes whether or not Good Luck Valiant is SO balanced that the songs are missing that one irresistible spark, you feel me? That’s what I’m saying about the ol’ hook – like’em or not, they’re important. I’d argue that “Anxiety” has more than the rest when it comes right down to it – but it’s still tough to say whether or not it’s going to be enough to generate the addictive qualities of music to kick in and keep the people coming back to it like raving lunatics…which admittedly, ain’t easy for anyone. Right now, the biggest asset within Good Luck Valiant is certainly the fact that no stone is being unturned when it comes to the level of attention to detail, the writing is genuinely as solid as the execution is, and rather than a singular hook or some kind of gimmick, I’d wager that for a great many of you out there listening, this band retains your interest because there are no real weak points when it comes to any one tune. Maybe they’re somewhat missing an ultimate highlight to point out or that true aspect that makes them memorable to listening ears out there…but that definitely doesn’t affect the overall quality of these cuts and the balance on display – Dylan’s earning your attention by creating songs that tell stories, and much to his credit, even with the absence of a seriously identifiable main hook of sorts, he makes his music in a compelling way that keeps you wanting to listen – which is crucial. I think Dylan’s done a great job with the material he’s got – you can’t fault a guy for giving everything he’s got to every moment he has like Hoey so clearly has here on this album…vocally, musically, he hasn’t let himself down one iota. It’s hard to think anyone could even attack the writing either when you listen to the execution, dynamic structure, and multiple parts of a track that are involved in a song like “Anxiety” at the very end – there’s real thought & effort being put into these cuts, and that’s important to recognize. Chorus-wise, I think he’s probably closest to his most memorable moments on the microphone here in terms of what people might remember…but I’d be straight-up lying to ya by omission if I didn’t say that it’s the music that stands out the most at pretty much all times. The way these two dudes play together is nothing short of extraordinary when they’re at maximum intensity, and “Anxiety” brings that outta them in-full, I can promise ya that. Conceptually, Good Luck Valiant has remained highly focused on what these two EPs are all about…we’ve essentially got half the story right now and the public has been awaiting that second part of this tale since 2017…and in that respect, it’s time to wrap this up & get going…because there ain’t no doubt if you heard this record, you’d definitely wanna hear how this tale concludes. For myself personally, I felt like Good Luck Valiant ended The Darkness EP with its strongest & most memorable cut…notably, the length is nearly double that of any other song on the record…with that extra space, this band has that much more room to impress you, which they’ll have no problem doing at all with the multiple twists & turns of a song like “Anxiety” and its relentlessly gripping musicianship on display. Trust me…there’s really no escaping this final cut once it starts…I’ve toured through this record a ton over the course of this week, and every single time “Anxiety” came on, I signed up for the ride all over again…whether it’s the extra length to make an impression on us, or the absolutely phenomenal way Dylan & Drake play this final cut…either way, they finish off The Darkness with a resounding victory and in my opinion, the EP’s most killer cut at the end. LISTEN to the extra details…the incredible breakdown around the 3:35 mark and the surge back into the main hooks…the savage ferocity of the vocals at peak intensity…the straight-up immaculate way the song deconstructs and drifts away dreamily at the end…nothing short of amazing really. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya from the get-go, Good Luck Valiant is an ambitious band with big ideas, but they’ve proven on all four of these tracks that they’ve got all the chops required to take’em as far as they choose to go.
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