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Near Life Experience Day of Silver Sun (with Bonus Interview!)

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Friday, June 6, 2003 @ 1:25 PM

(Noiselab Records)

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The other day I had a Near Life Experience. No, I'm not talking about a near DEATH experience where you see a bright white light beckoning you on. I'm talking about Near LIFE Experience, side project of Lillian Axe guitarist and master musician Steve Blaze.

Now, I have followed Lillian Axe for years now and even though I have seen them about a dozen times over the past 3 years and Near Life Experience has even played Houston multiple times during that span, I still had not had the opportunity to see them live or even hear any of their music. That is, until I received the band's newest CD, Day Of Silver Sun, in the mail to review. What a shock! I'm telling you, listening to a great rock album with deep, meaningful lyrics doesn't get a hell of a lot better than this people.

Steve has managed to surround himself with great talent on this CD, starting with fellow axe brother Sam Poitevant on guitar and rounded out with a tough-as-steel combination on drums and bass of Dennis Papaleo and Paul Starnes, respectively. These last two members really provide the foundation of the tunes on this CD.

I initially fell into the trap of believing that this project would be nothing more than a glorified version of Lillian Axe. I could not have been more mistaken. Lillian Axe this is definitely not! As a matter of fact, only one tune on the entire CD, ďCradle By The Sea,Ē would even remotely have been a song that may have appeared on a past Lillian record. Near Life Experience is more progressive and much heavier and darker than anything Lillian Axe put out, which is not a bash on Lillian, but simply a means of comparison to you, the reader.

Steve and Co. take us on an astral journey through space and time and into our innermost being, deliver a solid effort of power chords and melodic riffs enough to satisfy fans of most hard rock genres. Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about this CD is the diverse musical styles employed in the songs. In this day when cookie-cutter 'nu' metal bands are cranking out CDs where all the songs sound the same, Day Of Silver Sun is a pleasant departure from the trend. During my research for this review, I toyed with the idea of comparing a few of the more outstanding tunes on the CD with other bands that we have all heard. But the more I thought about it and talked with other people it became apparent that the comparison is truly in the ears of the listener. What may sound like a certain band to me sounds like something totally different to someone else. So, I will leave that up to you all. This is a great CD from start to finish, with scarcely a breath's space in between tracks. Steve tackles the vocals himself on this record, and although he may be no Ron Taylor (Lillian Axe vocalist), he certainly is more than adequate. It did take a few times of listening through the tracks to get used to hearing him on the vocals, but his style is most definitely a perfect fit for the style of music he plays in Near Life.

Songs that certainly deserve a listen include "Mother,Ē "Cradle by the Sea,Ē "New World Spirit,Ē "Day of Silver Sun,Ē "Congenital Sadness" and for those of you craving something with a dark, ominous appeal, "Retrieve the Bodies.Ē Steve also does not forsake the one thing that seems to have been lost on all of the new bands that are out there: the guitar solo. Just take a listen to the solo on "Mother" and you will know what I mean.

As an added bonus to this review, I had contacted Steve to get his input on Near Life and the new CD and what I came away with was enough material for a little mini interview, so I have included it here for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

KNAC.COM: Okay Steve, for those readers that have never heard of Near Life Experience, why donít you just give us a quick background on how Near Life got started.
STEVE: Well, My brother and I had always wanted to do some sort of musical project together and when Lillian took a break in the Ď90s, we got together to form Near Life Experience. In Lillian Axe I wrote material that fit the style of what the band was all about and you wanted to impress everybody. With Near Life it was like, you know what, we have much the same taste and what we like is what weíre gonna be playing when weíre out there. We donít have to please a lot of people. There were a lot of avenues that we took that we werenít able to take in other situations. Itís not that itís good, bad, worse or better, itís just different. And so we decided to put this thing together and we were actually together looking for the right people for maybe a year or so before we found the people that we wanted to do this with. Weíve had a few member changes since then, but it was really the opportunity for me to be able to play stuff that was the edge, the perimeter of what I had inside of my heart.

KNAC.COM: Well, itís interesting that you mention writing songs to please other people or to fit a specific Ďmoldí if you will. One of the things that struck me when I was listening to the CD the first few times was that you must have been writing for a particular style in Lillian Axe.
STEVE: Well, I donít wanna take that too far because that isnít really quite the way it is. Itís just that when youíre writing in certain situations, you know, itís like I couldnít have written an 8 minute song for the last Lillian Axe album that was really dark and deep and please everyone in the band, labels, radio people. I didnít compromise my writing but I didnít take certain things that I like to do and present them. I took a certain element of myself and presented that Iíve never, ever sold myself short and Iíve never written anything and presented it if I wasnít happy about it. With Near Life Iím able to explore lots of other different things. I also have a solo record Iím working on now that will be WAY different than any of these bands that I play in. I have the opportunity in this band for me to hit those deep, dark places I havenít gone before.

KNAC.COM: Now, my other thought aside from the writing for a style was that Psychoschizophrenia came out in í93, and since most peopleís musical styles evolve over time, then if your influences on the next Lillian record are like Day of Silver Sun, then itís going to be pretty heavy.
STEVE: Well, thatís weíre heading with it right now. We have a brand new song for the Lillian album and some people are like, you know, that sounds like a Near Life song. But the chemistry between the individuals in each of the projects is what will make a song fit that particular style. I think there are a lot of Lillian songs that Near Life couldíve done and vice versa. Theyíre two totally different animals and I prefer to keep it that way. Theyíve both played on the same stage before and itís worked out well. You know, to me, music is music and I like mixes of different styles. If every band sounded like the next one we would have a pretty boring world, even though that seems to be whatís presented on radio most of the time is a constant, singular theme through every song you hear. The world listens to radio to find out whatís in the marketplace and are not allowed to hear so many things that are just wonderful.

KNAC.COM: Now Day of Silver Sun is the bandís fourth or fifth CD, is that right?
STEVE: No, itís actually really our second CD. We did a self-titled album about 4 years ago, something like that, and basically we just sold it at live shows, we didnít get any distribution so we just sold it at live shows and on the internet. We released Day of Silver Sun about 5 months ago, and the problem we had with that was Southwest Distribution, who was distributing the record nationwide, went bankrupt. So basically, we have a brand new record that hasnít hit the market. It has been out there in a few stores around and itís sold a few thousand units so far but itís not getting the push. So basically weíre back to getting this thing out. Itís still at Amazon, Best Buy and some of the other record sites on the Internet, at live shows and that kind of thing, so you can get it if you try. Weíre shopping it right now trying to get it picked up.

KNAC.COM: Well, what was the bandís mindset during the recording of Day of Silver Sun?
STEVE: Well, itís done in a lot of segments. Half the record was done with my brother Craig playing drums and the other half is done with Dennis (Papaleo). You know weíve got a lot of songs where Bob Dearden played rhythm guitar, he was the first guitar player before Sam (Poitevant), and the other half was Sam. Itís almost like two different bands played on the record. Four or five songs were from the first incarnation, and the other ones are the band as it is now and has been for the past 3 years.

KNAC.COM: So you actually used some songs that you had?
STEVE: Yeah, some we had and just remixed them.

KNAC.COM: Was there some sort of theme or special sound that you were looking for on this CD, because it seems almost like an astral journey or some kind of transcendental theme going on throughout the record.
STEVE: Itís kind of a theme over, well the first song ďMotherĒ is about actual birth, you know, through the birth canal and out into the world, the whole awakening of being nothing into awareness, growing into awareness. As the record goes on there is kind of a theme to it, a different awareness to life and situations in life, from optimism to pessimism. Iím a pretty pessimistic guy when it comes to the whole world and the ugliness out there but by the same token Iím equally optimistic about the beauty, I just get aggravated how people donít take advantage of it and we hurt each other so much.

KNAC.COM: Any songs that stand out to you as being favorites?
STEVE: Ahh, to be honest with you, no I donít. I have no favorites on the record. There are some songs that I really like listening to or playing live more than other ones. I like the newer stuff because the fresher the song is, the more excited you get about playing it. Some of the songs Iíve been playing for several years, but they have all turned out real well and Iím excited about Ďem. Maybe ďEdenĒ might be one of my favorites on the record. That one was inspired by a dream where I was this kind of, I donít know, Iím not going to use the word Ďcult,í but this kind ofÖ [laughs] You see when you use the word Ďcultí you suddenly think of all the bad things. I was this leader of a group of people that were trying to go and start a new place to live somewhere to get away from all the ugliness on the earth and it took place in this big, wide open Midwestern field covered in snow and I had this whole group of people and thatís why I called it ďEden,Ē like the start or rebirth of a new world. We were in this house with a bunch of upper class, snotty-nosed rich people that were sitting in a room, they didnít know us but they were judging us and we snubbed our noses at them and left to go through this field to start this new world.

KNAC.COM: And this was all a dream?
STEVE: Yeah, it was all only a dream. I was like, ďWhere did this come from?Ē

KNAC.COM: Okay, last question. Tell me about the little passages that are written at the end of each set of lyrics in the CD booklet.
STEVE: Well, when I did the Psychoschizophrenia liner notes, I did something similar to that and I got great response and people really enjoyed the fact that I touched on things a little bit but I didnít give too much of it away. I always thought that, I really enjoyed hearing a writerís touch on what something was about to the point where you could still make your own inferences from it but you didnít really, it wasnít really about any one particular moment or thing and you could draw your own conclusions and have something that was multi-interpreted. And so I just kind of touched on things a little bit, like ideas that I had when I was writing the lyrics because to be honest with you, itís really difficult when people say Ďwell, what is this song about,í itís hard for me to say sometimes because in most cases the lyrics just come out when I start to listen back to the music. Iíll have melody lines in my head and when I write music I write a piece that moves me musically and then I let that kind of give birth to the words. Thatís usually what happens. For instance, Day of Silver Sun, my brother actually came up with that title. He said, ďMan, wouldnít it be cool if one day we woke up and everything had changed and the sun was silver and the whole way we looked at things was different than we had ever experienced before,Ē and I started envisioning Ray Bradburyís Martian Chronicles and being in the future on a planet where we lost all individuality and everything was all barren and cold and stiff and having no color but just silver everywhere. You know, all these ideas about losing individuality but also a futuristic look at what it could get like if we donít appreciate it.

KNAC.COM: I liked the idea of the passages. I thought they kind of summarized the songs.
STEVE: It was enough idea to give you some thought about it as you listen to it. People have always told me, ďYou know, youíre lyrics are very poetic,Ē but to me theyíre nothing without the music. Iíve always felt that it must be tough for a poet to come up with ideas that can move somebody strictly by the words. Thatís why I admire good poetry. But when you can take great poetry and place it over the top of music, thatís why I guess I love soundtracks to movies so much is because movies can be made or broken by the soundtrack at times. A piece of music can take a simple sentence and make it have 500 different meanings depending on the piece of music behind it. Music and lyrics together if theyíre done right are one of the most moving possibilities, then you just add the visuals to it and itís all over. I always wanted to do a video that was just different scenes and scenarios and visuals set to music in the background and Iíve thought that would be an awesome thing to do with our music some day.

In closing, I would like to say that this is a well-produced CD and is worthy of checking out. But hey, don't take my word for it. Got to the Noiselab Records web site and download a couple of clips from Day Of Silver Sun and see if you don't agree.

Check them out at: NLEweb.com.

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