Around their tail end of the 1990s, there emerged a strain of alt rock that seemed ubiquitous, unavoidable, and just about bloody everywhere. It channeled the aggression of grunge, yet lacked its nihilism. It avoided the angst of nu-metal, but also the ire said genre initially drew. It was the music of bands like Foo Fighters, Incubus or Stained. And while it was everywhere in the years after grunge, the ‘00s emo and pop punk explosion seemed to put it to bed for good.
Or so we thought.
For North Carolina’s Davy Williamson, it’s a sound that never went away, and one he doesn’t just relish in on his latest EP Down By The Fire, but one he tames, contorts, and makes entirely his own. As a result, it’s a record that feels, at times, welcomingly familiar and at others, refreshingly different.
Whether you can consider eight tracks to be an EP or more of a mini-album is down to personal opinion, but here, across six tracks and an instrumental interlude and outro, the added length allows Williamson not just to encapsulate feelings of frustration, anger, resentment and betrayal, but to cultivate them, allowing them to simmer across the record’s run time, before bubbling over at choice moments.
Opening number “Thin Disguise” is a grungey slow-burner that doesn’t so much set the pace of the record, but it does set its tone. Following number “Cliché” picks things up nicely, a propulsive backbone of a riff dragging the track towards its conclusion.
A softer side to Williamson can be seen on both “Fault Line” and “Same Place” but in doing so neither lose any of the record’s inherent anthemia; the latter coming across like a mixture Foo Fighters and Disturbed.
It’s arguably the record’s title track that is its centerpiece, however. At almost four-minutes long, it’s the longest track on offer, blossoming into a huge slice of optimistic alt-rock made all the more impressive when you know that Williamson recorded all the instruments across the track and indeed the record itself.
While it’s easy to mistake the familiarity of Down By The Fireas just being simply derivative, those moments that do feel instantly familiar are more homage than rip off. And though as far as records go it won’t win over anyone not already a fan of rock music, those that have a huge amount to unpack and enjoy across the eight tracks on offer.