By Ryan Lacerda
Label: Independently released
Release Date: March 16, 2016
Kapsize was one of my most unexpected and exhilarating finds of the year. Their debut album Rationalize combines traditional reggae with ska, punk AND metal. That’s right, metal and reggae! It was only my second weekend living in San Marcos when I miraculously stumbled into KIVA’s Bar and Lounge. I had no clue what I was in for. I had never heard another artist combine reggae and metal. Have you?
Right at the start, “Porn Queen” explosively launches the journey off, with drummer Zach Schuler’s speedy drum roll, and main songwriter and guitar player Aaron Rovenger’s technically challenging and piercing guitar solo full of bends and tapping, foreshadowing his dexterous fingers’ sophistry that shines on throughout the album. Transitioning to a fast tempo reggae riff, the humorously perverse lyrics express shock from watching an innocent girl who turned into a porn star performing in a video, “You used to be the sweetest thing/That’s why I can’t believe I saw you on my screen/Some nasty fat dude put his hands all over on you/And you were all about it yes you know you liked it too”.
Unfortunately, Aaron’s lyrics are quick and difficult to understand clearly, and this is true for most of their faster songs. Quickly moving to the chorus, the transition to the first solo slows down and sounds Middle-Eastern with use of the raised 7th note on the harmonic minor scale. The second solo takes place in the same Middle-Eastern transition with Michael Collin’s minimal use of the synthesizer glossing over it to give it a mild psychedelic feel and then fading out. When you think the song has ended, Aaron’s riffs and evil laugh bring the song back for one quick run through the chorus again.
Lighter Songs: #2. “Break it Off”, #3. “Wisdom”, #4. “Come down”, #5. “Lightspeed*”, and instrumentals #8. “Chubby”, and #11. “D.M.M.B.” Zach’s creatively punctual and melodic use of the toms, claves, cowbells, and higher-tuned snare rhythmically colors and pervades the entire album. You become acutely aware of his percussive prowess during the second song, “Break it Off” where his drums help create an authentic and snappy Jamaican reggae vibe. It only begins there and you’ll find yourself constantly admiring his drum work. Aaron’s smooth yet slightly raspy and moderately high pitched vocals resemble Bradley Nowell from Sublime, which is especially notable on “Break it Off”, “Wisdom” and “Lightspeed”. One of the more traditional reggae-rock songs of the album, “Wisdom” is the one to show to your less metal friends if you’d like to persuade them to go to the show. It showcases the rhythm section’s superbly solid grounding: Zach and Michael expertly keep time; they both played in jazz band during high school together and you can feel the strong chemistry in their music. Although starting off heavy, “Come down” transitions to a catchy reggae riff and with a few listens you’ll find yourself singing along.
“Lightspeed” is the gem of the lighter songs, with an uplifting guitar harmony between Aaron and Michael Collins, the synth player, guitarist and current bassist. The lyrics reflect the thoughts of the first people in space traveling in their spaceship going 186,000 miles per hour. First of our kind/ You know I’m feeling alright/ I’m strapped into this ship/ At the speed of light”. The solo in “Lightspeed” is my favorite on the album because it unpredictably accelerates the song out of nowhere into an epic feeling that is simultaneously soulful, bluesy, and metal. I can hear influence from Megadeth’s lead guitarist and songwriter Dave Mustaine as well as their former guitarist, Marty Friedman in Aaron’s soloing and this song exemplifies that influence. The solo conjures an image of Han Solo flying in his Millennium Falcon on a final mission to the disarm the Death Star and save the galaxy. “Chubby” is soothing to listen to and sounds similar to an instrumental reggae version of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane.
Heavier songs: #1.“Porn Queen”, #6.“Lockdown”,7 #.“O-C-D – Bags”, #9. “Hour of the Wolf”*, and #10.“Barge it”. “Lockdown” features the most fast paced punk riff on the album. The thrash punk chorus fires me up and makes me imagine a band of muscled-up shirtless bald dudes covered in obscene tattoos smashing their equipment on stage to the cheers of a belligerent, boisterous crowd. “Hour of the Wolf” is my favorite song on the album: the harmonies are heroic, Michael’s bass picks up and gives the quest-like feeling more depth, and Aaron’s sweep picking solo is impeccable. Melting your face off with lush cymbal splashes and a colossally vile metal guitar riff, “Barge it” has a wickedly heavy intro. It speed ups into a thrash metal transition and then to reggae effortlessly. Like their other songs, the transitions are unpredictably smooth; you find yourself wondering in awe how they did it. The last song “D.M.M.B. is a traditional reggae-rock instrumental, and proves their roots influence is genuine.
I’ll admit, I don’t actually have a PhD in reggae metal from the prestigious online program for Phoenix University. However, I’ve attended the annual reggae fest in Austin multiple times, and I’ve witnessed Bob Marley’s legendary band, The Wailers, twice. I’m more of a metalhead: I’ve seen Megadeth twice, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. Kapsize blends these seemingly opposite genres together. Kapsize’s diverse variety of catchy reggae melodies bravely thrust upon erratic tempo changes and rock genres and styles in Rationalize boldly venture into heavier styles of reggae more than other contemporary reggae and reggae-rock artists like Tribal Seeds or Rebelution. Rationalize vigorously incorporates punk, ska and metal into reggae-rock bringing a fresh new perspective to reggae and hopefully inspiring other metalheads to groove with the riddim.