Monster in the Machine: Shannon Crawford (guitar); Douglas Ardito (bass guitar); Josh Freese (drums).
Additional personnel: James "Munky" Shaffer (guitar); Imani Coppola (violin); Zac Baird (keyboards).
Surely the least likely contender to co-launch Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer's new EmotionalSyphon label, but friendship runs deep, and the relationship between Shaffer and Shannon Crawford, the man running this machine, dates back to childhood. So those hoping for a metal monster best look elsewhere. To damp down those expectations immediately, Butterfly Pinned opens in dreamy psychedelia, but fear not, that's only the intro, for "Fear of the Mind" then kicks into classic rock before unleashing an anthemic glam rock chorus. And Crawford and his cohorts excel at genre benders, following "Fear" with the soaring "Helicopter" which hops from the Beach Boys to late-'60s Beatles. "Perfect" takes the Fab Four back to "Strawberry Fields" then folds in Ziggy era David Bowie. "Dot on My Soul" is more subtle, a song that could've been written by Bono but sounds arranged by Billy Corgan. "Burns Inside Me" is just awesome, imagine David Bowie in his funk period tackling Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" while Blondie's "Rapture" plays through. Not all the songs are hybrids, however, and a swath of the album is dedicated to darker material, beginning with the Cure-esque "Under Your Shadow" (as performed by Radiohead), and continuing through the Mission-like "One Way Trip," the Sisters of Mercy-ish "Savior," and the Fuel driven "Dog," with the introspective "Don't" closing the set in power ballad/emo style. Crawford is simply amazing. As producer he gives this album a grand sound, while his guitar and keyboards are as versatile as his vocals. Behind him, drummer John Freese and Crawford's former Cellophane cohort, bassist Doug Ardito, prove themselves the masters of rhythms from any age or genre. All told a stellar album, held together by its thoughtful lyrics, strong melodies, infectious choruses, and sheer creativity. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
CMJ - "'One Way Trip' marries a nightclubbing beat and Bauhaus-like vocals to guitars that split the difference between Deftones' atmospheric metal and violent, Interpol-ish stabbing riffs..."