When Off Road Minivan released their debut EP, Spiral Gaze, in 2018, many fans were no doubt surprised to hear that the band, led by Fit For a King bassist/vocalist Ryan "Tuck" O'Leary, was a decidedly straightforward rock band, favoring the stylings of grunge and emo more than the metal he plays in his day job. While that EP established that the band knew their way around a good rock song, it remained to be seen how that sound would hold up over time. Now a couple years later, the band is preparing to release their debut full-length album, Swan Dive, on Tooth & Nail Records, and they've released a couple songs to give us an idea of where they're heading.
Lead single "Vampire" opens with undeniable energy, with O'Leary's impassioned vocals leading the way over a bed of loud guitars and driving drums. The song is a great showcase for O'Leary, as he veers from a quieter delivery during the verses to full-on belting during the choruses and into the bridge. While the song shows the band firing off a solid rocker, b-side single "Supernova" finds the band utilizing tension and release to great effect, starting off with slower, subdued verses before exploding in a cathartic release of guitars and O'Leary's powerful voice. Of the two songs, "Supernova" feels like the band is hitting their stride as songwriters and bodes well for the rest of Swan Dive.
As on the Spiral Gaze EP, the band is remarkably tight from a musical standpoint, effortlessly transitioning from the heavier "Vampire" to the moodier "Supernova." Drummer Evan Garcia Renart appears to be the band's secret weapon - his drums are very prominent in the mix and, most noticeably in "Supernova;" he really leads the band as they build and release and build again, playing with restraint and bombast equally well.
Off Road Minivan isn't necessarily reinventing the wheel here, but they don't really need to. This style of rock music - emo or alternative or whatever you might want to label it - thrives more on passion and atmosphere than on originality, and in that regard, the band definitely delivers. If these two songs are an indicator of what the rest of Swan Dive holds, Off Road Minivan will have a winner on their hands.JFH Reader Review: Review date: 5/1/20, written by Ben Huber for Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Tooth & Nail Records
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