I really have to feel sorry for Australian hard rock bands. When you are from the country known for providing AC/DC, probably the most iconic hard rock band of all time, to the music scene, it has to be pretty daunting to form a hard rock band simply because you know you’re going to inevitably face comparison to them at some point, and almost certainly a lot sooner than other bands from other countries do. Considering the number of hard rock bands out there that can get compared to AC/DC and NOT be seen as lacking in comparison…yeah, it’s got to be a curse by this point, even if you like AC/DC yourself.
Still, this doesn’t mean hard rock bands shouldn’t stop trying to prove themselves, so I was pleasantly surprised when Lillyé’s debut self-titled EP reached my inbox. The band have been around for a while, if my research is accurate, with links back to the band being traced back to 2008, and they are also noted for having a female lead vocalist who actually SOUNDS like a rock vocalist and not like a slightly lost pop vocalist (looking at you, Hayley Williams!).
So, fun hard rock is what I expected. I…guess I got that, but I can’t say that I was overly impressed with the EP either. It isn’t a bad EP, but I think Lillyé might have a bit more work they need to do if they want their debut album (whenever they make it) to be a success.
Let’s get the positives out of the way first: vocalist Virginia Lillyé has a great voice. While I think some might find her voice leans a bit too close to that of Lzzy Hale from Halestorm, I will say that her voice is not one I have any complaints over. Solid range, an ability to switch between hard rock belting and a softer tone that shows she isn’t a one trick pony, great vocal tone…all around, just a great singing voice in general! I almost wish I could recommend this EP on the strength of her performance alone, because she genuinely has a voice that deserves to be heard.
While this is also a negative point, as I’ll explain later, I do also have to state that the rest of the band do clearly know their way around their instruments and aren’t afraid to make that obvious. You basically can hear aspects of various different styles of melodic metal and hard rock across this EP and it’s certainly easy to hear that the band don’t want to be seen as just capable of doing one thing well.
Unfortunately, that is where I have to start with the negatives. See, while it is good that the band throw all of these elements out there, these elements just don’t come together to form a concrete whole, which badly hurts the songwriting for the EP. Easily the worst offender in that regard is ‘Sik of U’, which pretty much feels like a bunch of ideas put together with little thought for how they all work out together, but there’s other weird moments across the EP that just leave me scratching my head. In particular, ‘Under’, which is otherwise my pick for best song on the record, decides to go into a section of Lillyé progressively saying words ending in “-ion” in increasingly higher pitches and with more power as she goes along, which just felt like a waste of time to me. I don’t mind artists showing they are capable of more than the average band in their genre, but it still has to work in the constraints of the song, which Lillyé just don’t pull off here.
The production is not free from issues either. I’ve been able to find out bassist Christian Lauria also did the production for this EP, so I’m going to have to start by pointing out that “Everything louder than everything else” does NOT work for production work. This is probably more mastering engineer Steve Nagasaki’s fault than Lauria’s, but the mastering for this album is just flat out ridiculously loud, and it is PAINFUL to listen to on the ears as a result. Seriously, the mastering of this EP only stopped bugging my ears when I set it to LITERALLY the lowest volume on my iPod, when I usually can happily listen to stuff between halfway and three quarters of the maximum volume (including some stuff I’ve ragged on for being too loudly mastered in the past). Even considering that my hearing is somewhat sensitive and that I usually listen to my iPod on lower volumes than most people, that still is not a good sign. The bass also is nigh on inaudible on the EP, although I will concede that this could be a side effect of me having to turn the volume down so much to avoid hurting my ears. That said, the general sound of the instruments in the mix is very good, so there’s definitely potential for Lauria to be a good producer in the future!
Ultimately…well, this is an EP that seems more like the only thing it has going for it are that the performances are more varied per song than the average hard rock band will provide per album, and even that’s not a completely positive comment. Do Lillyé have the potential to do well in the future? Hmm…I don’t think they’re likely to make it to UK shores any time soon (although I’ll be the first to welcome them if they do!), but I can see them getting somewhere if they take the time to improve upon their songwriting skills, and that might just mean doing more material like ‘Under’ than ‘Sik of U’ and dialing back on the ideas per song to ensure that only the ones which really need to be there make it into the final song. For all my harshness, though, I don’t want this review to be taken to mean Lillyé are a bad band: they clearly have a lot of ideas and misused potential on a debut is better than playing it safe and getting lost in the shuffle as a result, so I will commend them for that. I just don’t think there’s enough going for this EP to really give it a recommendation to anyone who isn’t already a huge hard rock fan AND who has a tolerance for songwriting that has a lot of ideas in each track.
Lillyé was released independently on the 3rd of July 2014. A promo copy of the EP was provided for review purposes. Lillyé is available from https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/lillye-ep/id897457218