A song can tell a story. Whether it be tales of a time before, a lost lover, or a yearning for tomorrow, a musician can tell us a lot when combining their stories with a palpable mood. For Jon Pozzuto, that mood is decidedly a rockin’ one with his latest release, Valley of Empty Cities. The EP sees Pozzuto take us on a wild ride of emotion, fueled by hard rock.
Dead End Train starts it off. A high octane, hard-rockin guitar riff follows a commanding, slammin’ drum beat that continues throughout. The retro-rock feel hits down to the vocals. The smooth, reverb-laced vocals are propped up by the trippy synths that sneak right underneath the rest of the instrumental. Lines such as “I put down my bottle of wine, rubbed the dust outta my eyes, but the train just kept on rollin’, right out of my mind” are delivered smooth as butter and have an upbeat, dreamy quality to them. Dead End Train is a high-energy track that’s hard to not bounce to, if it doesn’t totally lift you out of your seat.
Love and Death follows it up. The melody of a harmonica kicks the track off, followed by a soul-fueled guitar riff. This sets up the rambling beat behind it well as the vocals take the lead. While the vocal aesthetic remains the same, the mood of the track is totally different. The lyrics are full of emotion, with lines such as “you won’t end up forgotten, but I can’t pretend you care. I’ll keep my finest memories locked away somewhere ” hitting hard, especially when backed up by contemplative instrumentals. This beat never loses that signature retro-rock aesthetic, however, giving it a personality all its own. The next track is Cemetery grove
While the intro is a bit more cinematic, with the sound of a windy storm to bring you into the track, it wastes no time in rocking out. The harmonica once again takes the lead of the instrumental until John Pozzuto’s lyrics come onto the scene. The sunny beats juxtapose an emotional song of loneliness and betrayal, illustrated in lines such as “from a tower of broken dreams, empty promises and lies, I watched you play your games below, like a creature of the night” and the catchy chorus. The guitar solo that leads the track out rocks hard and is unfortunately cut off by more sounds of a windy storm. While it sets the cinematic tone well, it would have been nice to let the solo play out, especially with the title track up next.
Valley of Empty Cities starts with an energetic drumroll. The track then explodes onto the scene with a hard-rockin’ combination of guitars and harmonica. Backed up by slammin’ percussions, it creates the most dynamic and uplifting mood of any track on the EP. The vocals tell a story of nostalgia and a time forgotten, as told in lines such as “tell me an ancient melody that the elders left behind, the fires made in the midnight skies where the children have gone blind. Lines in the catchy chorus such as “this used to be a forest, now it’s a sea of trash” also give the track some bite, with a hard-rockin’ guitar solo that makes the instrument sing. It’s a great outro track that solidifies the attitude and aesthetic of the EP.
From start to finish, Valley of Empty Cities shows that it’s here to rock. High octane guitars and slammin’ drums are met with the smooth melodies of the harmonica and subtle synths that give tracks featuring one, the other or both an extra dash of personality. When combined with the reverb-laced vocals of Pozzuto, tracks can take on the aesthetic of full-blown retro-rock, or a more grounded Americana style to tell meaningful stories through these songs. While not perfect, anyone into rock with a nostalgic edge should give this one a listen.