I’ve been looking forward to this release for a while and it’s safe to say it’s exceeded expectations. If you’re an EARTHSIDE fan then you’re probably already aware of HEAD WITH WINGS as Frank Sacramone and Jamie Van Dyck have been a big part of the writing and production of HEAD WITH WINGS’ work. The band is formed of vocalist/guitarist Joshua Corum and fellow guitarist Brandon Cousino. With the melodic nature of the work and the prog influences, comparisons have been made to PORCUPINE TREE/STEVEN WILSON and KARNIVOOL but I think they extend further from just prog (sorry prog snobs). I’m not denying the prog is there but they are one of those magnificent rock bands who effortlessly transcend the alternative rock realm. I might upset a few people when I say this, but every time I listen to HEAD WITH WINGS it’s like I’m listening to a more conceptual JIMMY EAT WORLD – and I promise that is a good thing. It is the emotion and melodies that HEAD WITH WINGS pull off so flawlessly and the delicate instrumentation beautifully puts the cherry on the cake.
After the first listen of From Worry To Shame the depth of the emotion is quite overwhelming. There’s something about Corum’s voice which is truly mesmerising. If you like soaring melodies then this album has 9 songs chock full of ’em! Corum is at risk of becoming one of rock’s most signature voices and Sacramone’s and Van Dyck’s production wizardry have really helped to heighten the feelings and beautiful accompaniments to create a haunting masterpiece. There is also a significant reason as to why From Worry to Shame is such an important release. 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the kidnap/murder of Corum’s cousin. He wishes to raise awareness of the importance of remaining astute when journeying through life. The album also touches upon other tragic events such as the Sandy Hook massacre and Chesire Home Invasion. Some really heavy topics to draw from, HEAD WITH WINGS do them justice through the storytelling feel of Corum’s lyrics, making their tributes that much more potent.
The opening of the album, Goodbye Sky features all the beautiful components I’ve already touched upon. It is a perfect example of the arresting composure Corum and Cousino exhibit throughout the album. I’ll never forget when I first heard this song, even before I knew the subject matter of the album I was overwhelmed with the vehemence that pours from this track and I had to hold back tears. Words cannot describe how stunning this opening song is, but it is the perfect opener for such a soul-stirring record.
A narrative is tactfully constructed for second track Somewhere, Something Gives; a rock ballad inspired by the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre that occurred in the band’s native Connecticut. I say ballad because the emotive riffs and hushed vocal approach during the verses superbly tackles the sensitive topic. Song theme aside, it’s a solid rock song which submerges the listener in its rich depth of textures. The same could be said for In Memoriam, another ballady type song which erupts into spiralling riffs and climatic melodies.
Now Misanthropy is a bit proggier with its brooding guitars and mystic nature of the poetic lyrics. The way the acoustic strings resonate then burst into electric solos is what dreams are made of. The production is particularly good with this track as the tone of the guitars is warm yet still slightly chilling. Corum’s voice is also well mixed here, it sounds so natural and comfortable nestled amongst the impressive guitar work. The same can be said for the album’s title track; From Worry To Shame has great use of harmonies where every component has its place.
Things turn a bit proggier with post-rock vibes with Beyond The Wall. It is quite a haunting song which turns into a post-rock ditty halfway through. The guitars and Corum’s evocative laments make it one of the darker songs on From Worry To Shame. A contrast then occurs when the upbeat Stepping Stone starts. There’s something summery and shimmery about this track. Where Beyond The Wall was mesmerising with its haunting nature, Stepping Stone is mesmerising in its own relaxed way, it does pick up nearer the end when it becomes a resounding rocky ruckus. It’s become very evident by now that HEAD WITH WINGS are disgustingly talented song writers; catchy, beautiful and haunting, they seem to have found a winning formula.
The last two tracks, In Dark Motel Rooms and Treading Lightly are further examples of brilliant alternative rock perfection. The latter is a fitting finale with its beautiful guitars and poetic storytelling. Featuring a guitar solo from Jamie Van Dyck himself, this was always going to be a special song and a storming conclusion to a spectacular album. The ending of Treading Lightly is the most rousing of all, closing this absolutely staggering debut.