Charlotte’s Scapegoat celebrates the release of its latest full-length album, "I Am Alien," Saturday, September 3, with a cd release party at Tremont Music Hall (400 W. Tremont Ave.), the same venue where it first began playing live almost 12 years ago before its members were even old enough to drive. In the years since, Scapegoat has developed into a formidable hard rock act drawing hundreds locally and touring Japan, home to its label (Zestone).
Having heard them grow up I’ve come to expect each album to be a little bigger and more sonically advanced than the last (especially in the arrangements and production). Three years ago its last album, “Zombie Dog” was a big step forward in commercial accessibility and production value and "I Am Alien,” follows suit. Production-wise it’s clean and meticulously layered in the same way that major label releases recorded in expensive studios are. There are subtle musical flourishes beneath the surface that your average listener wouldn’t necessarily notice, but those details build up the songs and add to the grand theatrical quality that threads through the record. What’s more, this isn’t the result of a big name producer or a fancy studio, Scapegoat recorded and produced it in its own studio. I am increasingly impressed by vocalist Kit Walters’ studio skills and the care he's put into Scapegoat's and its friend Sugarglyder’s records. I imagine he could have a great career as a producer and mixer.
Musically “I Am Alien” hits hard with both heaviness and hooks. It’s a blend of metal (great Iron Maiden-like twin guitar harmonies, thundering double bass), hardcore (bounding stop/start riffs, dynamic vocals that jump from a whisper to a scream) with a dark goth feel and memorable pop hooks. Some tracks, “Transylvania Castlevania” for instance, remind me of pre-“Black Parade” My Chemical Romance where hardcore punk blasts speed into groove-based choruses that are downright danceable. “White Horse Crash Course” and “Spellbound” are a bit softer – a pair marked by fantastical romantic lyrics and intricate guitar work. The latter closes with big group “ohoohoohoohs” that should serve crowd participation well. "Black Bird Medicine” reminds me of early Biohazard with its take on funk-metal and riot shout-style backing vocals.
It’s this balance of melodic hardcore, metallic guitars, which always seem to be doing something flowery and interesting, attacking drums, groovier pop-leaning hooks, complicated arrangements, and those quieter, emotional lyrical moments that give the listener a lot to absorb. If “I Am Alien” was a cross country car trip it would be one peppered with landmarks and busy cityscapes, passing crazy accidents, abrupt weather changes, and colorful characters along the way. While I loved the futuristic, stylized "Zombie Dog," I think this may be my favorite Scapegoat record. It's made me think about what will make my favorite local releases come 2011 come December.
The “I Am Alien” release party includes performances by Wretched and the Local Traumatic. Music begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7-$9. 704-343-9494; www.etix.com