Since the early noughties, Philadelphia’s CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) have carved out a uniquely successful career. The band has sold north of a million records whilst maintaining dignity in their blend of gritty groove laden riffs and dance fuelled choruses. Whether the fans discovered the band through their affiliations with the rebellious home-made “CKY” VHS’s and “Jackass” television show or the work ethic of the bands’ tour schedule in links with giants such as Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Deftones; the band have formed a world-wide fan base to be tremendously proud of dubbed the “CKY Alliance”. The Alliance was a result of a band innovating the use of the internet in engaging their audience through forums pre social media and developing a deep bond with those who supported them on a personal level.
The bands’ first two records “Volume 1” and “Infiltrate.Destroy.Rebuild” are highly regarded as their finest work; however the momentum largely declined after the release of “An Answer Can Be Found” and “Carver City” in 2009 despite high positions on the Billboard charts. After tensions were becoming apparent to fans and front-man Deron Miller left the group in 2011, the Alliance have been longing for their return for many years; so it comes as no surprise that the album announcement and a hugely successful UK tour in May only added to the legitimacy of CKY’s return and relevancy in 2017. Through the vibe of my experience interviewing the band (which you can read here –http://invictamag.com/interview-cky/) to their interactions with fans and online presence; it is clear that this new record is a product of self-reflection, maturity and appreciation. This record see’s guitarist Chad I Ginsburg step into the front-man role with confidence as they boldly venture into new territory whilst retaining the magic formula that made their early releases so brilliant.
After a prolonged departure, it seems fitting that opening track ‘Replaceable’ comes out of the gates swinging with confidence as Chad’s first vocal effort is a “UGH!” grunt over one of their best riffs delivered over their career. This song is sure to be a fresh live favourite as it is simply accessible through Jess Margera’s four to the floor driving beats and ear-worm melodic chorus. Conceptually the track tackles the inner turmoil the band have been facing for many years; it is a topic that is a constant throughout this short release and is clearly cathartic for the trio. This charismatic approach to a sensitive subject with braggadocio is a bold way to open a record “yet you lie, deny and steal, delusional for real, so when you’re in my presence you should fucking kneel”. For die-hard fans the record may take a few listens to adjust to Chad’s vocal delivery as it is often laced in post-production effects and is of a much lower register, but it suitably adds a sense of coolness that goes over extremely well. The band discussed with me during our interview, the passion behind rehearsing the songs in a similar fashion to their early records, and producing it as authentically as possible; this is evident throughout first single “Days Of Self Destruction” – the lead single which boasts a monstrous riff, bouncy synths and a blistering guitar solo from Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. The drum sounds and bass tones are noticeably different from the previous track but do not detract from its sense of fluidity.
Despite The Phoenix short length, the album covers a wide array of styles and influences. “Unknown Enemy” capsules funk elements through the combination of off-beat high hat work and groovy bass lines from Matt Deis. It harkens back to classics such as “The Human Drive In Hi-Fi” with a dark Muse twist through its sci-fi heavy synth leads. In stark contrast to this tracks upbeat sensibility “Head For A Breakdown” is the album’s ballad, lead in by a beautiful twelve string acoustic intro that builds into a powerful rock anthem with a huge chorus. The band move into grandiose territory here with the use of a staccato string section and a blistering guitar solo and it perhaps puts previous sentimental efforts ala “Don’t Hold Your Breath” to shame.
We have seen many rock bands in the mainstream water down their sound recently for a softer and sleeker approach for example: Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Here however; it is refreshing to see a band re-claim their throne by adding ferocity to their original brand whilst still keeping their catchy core. The back end of this record exemplifies this perfectly; take the second half of “The Other Ones” for example which see’s Jess pick up the pace on a double timed beat whilst Chad shows off his guitar chops, and the extremely heavy repeating fuzzy riff over a 4/6 time signature during “Wiping Off The Dead” – this is sure to open up multiple mosh pits during their upcoming run at the Vans Warped Tour.
Sonically it is impressive that the band manage to layer so many dynamic details onto these songs with clarity and wholly avoid clutter. The blunt aggression continues on “Lies From You” as Chad barks “I do detest you” documenting the closure of a relationship; it is completely brimming with fast guitar lines, classic CKY low end synthesizers and dazzling vocal harmonies. No space is wasted on closer “Better Than Get Even” as they balance between a dance chorus, staccato synth lines and slow drum fills during the verses. The song also features a guitar solo with a beautiful blues tone before sending off on a simple tom rhythm from Jess with multiple layers of guitar melodies fighting one another.
To be frank, the idea of a band of this notoriety returning with a new album without their leading member this far into a career surely created anxiety for many fans; but the result is quite simply astonishing as they deliver one of the best records of their career and cement themselves as one of heavy rocks most important bands. Through the metaphoric imagery of the artwork, to every last detail of audio on this release, CKY have returned from the ashes and proved how catchy and interesting rock music can be in 2017. All hail the riff!
CKY tread new ground whilst refining what made their original sound so great.