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JFH Music Review

Sullivan, Heavy Is The Head

Heavy Is The Head

Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Rock / Alternative
Album length: 12 tracks: 36 minutes, 19 seconds
Street Date: December 9, 2014

Sullivan was just beginning to gain some notoriety when they abruptly stopped making music together. Now, seven years later, the band is back together. While the guys didn't sign with their old label in Tooth and Nail, they did, however, go with a familiar face. Spartan Records founder, John T. Frazier, was in marketing for T&N and Solid State during Sullivan's stint with the label. Front man, Brooks Paschal, even credited their relationship with Frazier as the key factor when deciding to sign with Spartan. Heavy is the Head is the band's third full-length album and shows an improvement after their seven year hiatus. Musically, their newest effort is a little more cohesive and on point, but even more improvement is noticed in Paschal's vocals. Once a more acquired taste, Brooks sings with a much better clarity, and overall more appealing sound, this time around.

"You Don't Mean It" starts the album off on the right foot. Brooks sings out, "Saying you don't mean it doesn't always make it right," in the chorus as a reminder that consequences and mistakes aren't always fixed by a simple cover-all statement. "Where the Pavement Meets the Road" picks up the speed a bit and is solid rocker. "Profile" is yet another rocking track with a catchy hook. The lyrics speak of the control of fear and wanting to go back for a second chance. The first single, "What's Good For the King," is up next. The song starts off with a Beatles-esque sound in all respects. Everything from the instruments, music, and vocals scream Beatles. The song shift gears, though, as the distorted guitars kick in at the fifty second mark. The song tells a rather tragic tale of a house that burns down. The mother of the family is "still in bed" (and taking pills illicitly) while the father is "M.I.A." While it's a somewhat depressing song from a lyrical standpoint, it stands out as a rather epic feeling ballad. "The Other Side" and "Pieces" add a little synth to the mix and hold their own as enjoyable tunes.

The Beatles sound returns on a smaller scale for what is arguably the best track on the album in "Melanoma Lullaby." The song doesn't maintain a typical arrangement of verse-chorus-verse-chorus, but the passion sung in the lyrics of the chorus/bridge is undeniable. Brooks sings, "Dear God, I'm a mess; I have nothing left. I stole all my charm from the maker's mill," and caps the end of that repeated line with the question, "Do you love me still?" "Higher Ground" and "Statuette" are two more fast-paced rockers that play out nicely down the final stretch. The latter of the two songs has a bit of a "serial killer" vibe to it lyrically and matches the intensity of the fairly disturbing album cover. "Seagrams" is a very short song, clocking in at just over one minute in length (and only 34 words), and plays out better thematically than anything. Another of the record's best numbers is saved for last. "Playing With Fire" is a great sounding rock song that many are likely to love. The infectious nature of the music just makes you want to hit repeat on the track after it's over.

Sullivan's return to the scene is a triumph. The sound of Heavy is the Head is fresh, yet familiar. While there are influences from the Beatles to My Chemical Romance clearly present, the music doesn't latch on to one of those particular sounds. Sullivan runs the gamut and gives you some intensity mixed with slower moments. Some may complain that they haven't grown any in seven years and cite that they are still playing music from the yesteryear, but I would argue that today's scene could use the lessons of a time since forgotten. Outside of "Seagrams," this is a record you can hit play on and not push another track button until it's over. If you're looking for a highly spiritual rock release, you probably want to keep looking, but if you are looking for some lyrics that are a bit deeper (they require time and thought) and open to interpretation, Brooks Paschal's latest track-listing is a good place to dig. Heavy is the Head could be Sullivan's best record to date and deserves some attention amongst all of the holiday music releasing this season. You should pick up this enjoyable rock album today. Welcome back, fellas!

- Review date: 12/3/14, written by Michael Weaver of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

Former Tooth & Nail act Sullivan came onto the scene rather strong in 2006 and seemed to bow out rather quickly with their last album, 2007's Cover Your Eyes. After some solo work from Brooks Paschal (under the moniker Surprises), the band is back together for their first album in seven years, Heavy Is The Head. Looking back, especially on their Tooth & Nail debut, they bore somewhat of a resemblance to Tell All Your Friends-era Taking Back Sunday, only slightly less depressing. They did evolve on the sophomore album, and they pick back up right where they left off, though there's still something about Heavy Is The Head that feels like it's from that era about a decade ago, with some instances that even go so far as sounding like AFI ("Higher Ground") or My Chemical Romance ("Statuette"). And it's not just the music or just the vocals that make it sound this way; it's a combination of the two, with even a hint of the lyrical themes that bring these other bands to mind. The best thing about Heavy Is The Head is the music, which spans the whole spectrum between soft & gentle and fast & intense, while - as I mentioned - recalling some of the glory days of the indie rock/emo scene. Having Sullivan back is, for many, a breath of fresh air in today's ailing rock scene. But I think this reviewer may fall into the group of people who just aren't that impressed with this reunion. Heavy Is The Head has some highlights (I actually do kinda dig "Playing With Fire"), but not enough to garner a purchase. - Review date: 11/24/14, Scott Fryberger


JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents

    Despite the long break, the guys in Sullivan haven't lost a step. As soon as the first track begins, fans of, Hey, I'm a Ghost and Cover Your Eyes will instantly be comfortable. The energetic, slightly-off pop/rock sound is done well once again, with only a few missteps. "Pieces," "Profile," and "Playing with Fire" are some of the most accessible songs of their career. Throughout the album, the varying and interesting choices done with the music will keep most listeners intrigued. Brooks' vocals are wide-ranging and hit some impressive high notes. There are some brilliant lyrics to be found here; however, there are some oddities too. Dark and cryptic lines find their way into a few songs. "Seagrams," in particular, sounds out of place lyrically and tonally. It would seem more fitting to see this song on a Surprises album, the lead singer's side project. Regardless, Heavy is the Head will be embraced by fans and by those looking for a unique sound in the alternative rock genre. - 12/9/14, Jerold Wallace of

    After a seven year hiatus, Sullivan is back with Heavy is the Head, an alternative rock album with traces of emo and indie rock. The strengths of the album (excellent instrumentation, robust hooks, improved vocals) outweigh the weaknesses (hackneyed sound, short album length, disturbing cover art), aggregating to an enjoyable but slightly underwhelming comeback. - 12/4/14, Christopher Smith of

    After a long hiatus, North Carolina based indie alternative rock band Sullivan has returned with an album that is set to please both past fans and those digging that Anberlin brand of rock music. The first track, "You Don't Mean It," sets the tone for the rest of the album with clever lyrical content set to a solid indie musical background. Stand-out tracks like "The Other Side," "Pieces," and "Statuette" all fit that same style, and are all great tunes for fans to enjoy. Later on, you'll catch "What's Good For The King" and "Melanoma Lullaby," both with a softer vibe, drawing out the listener's emotions with each chord played and each word sung nicely. All that being said, I feel as if "Higher Ground" and "Playing with Fire" are fillers that come off sloppy and weren't necessary additions to the end of the album. Overall, however, if you were into the older Sullivan stuff, or if you like a little emo-filled lyrical music, I would recommend grabbing "Heavy Is The Head." - 12/1/14, Kevin Hoskins of



. Record Label: Spartan Records
. Album length: 12 tracks: 36 minutes, 19 seconds
. Street Date: December 9, 2014
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: AmazonMP3

  1. You Don't Mean It (3:07)
  2. Where the Pavement Meets the Road (2:49)
  3. Profile (3:24)
  4. What's Good for the King (3:14)
  5. The Other Side (3:08)
  6. Pieces (3:10)
  7. Melanoma Lullaby (3:00)
  8. Higher Ground (3:43)
  9. Statuette (3:10)
  10. Seagrams (1:02)
  11. Playing With Fire (3:28)
  12. What's Good for the King (Acoustic) [Bonus Track] (3:04)
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