JACKSON CAGED

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Reviewed today on Tom Lohrmann Music is Jackson Caged’s debut album titled “Entity”. The band has been active in the Sheffield music scene since 2009 but has only recently come together to record a full-length album after years of sharing stages with bands like Funeral for a Friend and Spear of Destiny. Enjoy our review of “Entity” by Jackson Caged, as well as an interview with the band below.

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‘Best of Me’ fades in, aggressive, abrasive vocals soon cutting into the mix over top a heavy, riffing guitar. You’ll notice immediately that this is a professional, learned band, through and throughout, proven by excellent performances and solid mixes. The low end on this track is extremely punchy, and group vocals (which consisted of yelling and screaming) were reminiscent of other similar bands who have made marks on mainstream audiences. The choruses featured intriguing chords, and the lyrical content was deep and inquisitive. Each instrument was performed impressively, vocals included; it was refreshing to hear a vocalist singing and screaming about something that actually matters. The band has a tight sound overall, especially in the guitar department (their performances were angry and spectacular), with acute attention to detail. ‘Darwinian’ opened acoustically with an intricate riff that was played very well. The bass walks around smoothly, and everything fits well together, even though the track stays softer when the drums come in. The song picks up before it gets halfway through (as an electric guitar enters for the first time); this change doesn’t destroy the original vibe yet just enhances it. At the close of this section, the song returns to its softer state, only to quickly revert back to its newfound grungy, loud nature with a clean electric guitar solo, which was proficient and telling of the lead guitarist’s expertise. His playing throughout (but especially here) is incredibly creative and melodic, with awesome lead guitar parts backing the chorus afterwards. The vocals are again very good, the addition of vocal harmonies towards the end of the track included as well. ‘End of Days’ featured an extended intro of wind noises and guitars riffing far off in the distance. The odd time signature shows diversity and musical technicality, as did a big chorus with doubled vocals and whispered vocals within the gaps. ‘End of Days’ was more instrumentally-driven, even more-so than the others, the drum groove solid here as it is throughout the album. This band will be remembered for their standout performances and memorable choruses, many of which are haunting and eerie due to the dark and ominous lyrical content and overall vibe. ‘Half A Life’ opened in a softer, quieter manner with vocals and clean electric guitar only. This very exposed section soon included thunderclaps in the distance as the section grew bigger and bigger. A synth enters, the song continuing to build, until the chords change (revealing the first, “down” chorus) to showcase a different vocal melody. Soon thereafter, a big, full-band entrance shocks listeners after everything dies out (as do the vocals, conveniently on the phrase ‘die out now’). The band is not only intelligent but also does a great job at expressing themselves through both the lyrical content and also the musical attitude. Again, everything fits here, and the guitar playing is just killer; a very dissonant guitar solo with overflowing, abundant tone arrives on the scene before 3 minutes in, in the best way possible. The stellar choruses feature excellent chord choices and intense build-ups, as synths enter towards the end to continue building the sonic landscape. ‘In Hell’ opens with an ominous spoken-word introduction overtop guitar and drums; the first verse begins as vocals enter, with crunchy, percussive guitars and intricate hi-hat work. The vocalist seems to have a large amount of pent-up anger, which he uses to his advantage for lyrical content, and seems to know that he is in a bad place as he reaches out to God for help. The band has a very consistent sound throughout the whole album, one that is structurally solid, expressive, and very emotional. 

‘Liam’s Song’ is strictly acoustic, with emotive, personal, deep lyrics. This very soft number represents a major diversion from the band’s previous offerings, and features only vocals and an acoustic guitar until later in the song when a clean electric guitar enters more than halfway through for a tasteful solo. Drawn-out screams in one of the final choruses showcases true emotion and feeling, and lead nicely to ‘Limbo’, a hard-hitting tune with an awesome guitar riff to introduce the track. The band’s performances are finite and aggressive with each of the different parts done so well. I can imagine Jackson Caged being quite raucous live, but what sets them apart from other bands is their ability to maintain technicality and overall musical mood. Backing vocals are supportive in the choruses of ‘Limbo’, another huge, in-your-face number, with angry, rhythmic guitars (this guitar solo was again impressive, conjuring memories of another revered guitarist, Tom Morello). ‘Monster’ is another heavy hitter with an absolutely brutal guitar performance and pounding drums. The vocals bounce around in the verses, and a staccato bridge accentuates the rhythmic nature of the band we’ve discussed so often already. Guitars, bass, and drums play out confidently behind determined vocals before ‘Stillborn’ enters with a very unique guitar riff and another soft introduction. The first verse is performed well vocally with personal lyrics, leading to a huge chorus where all the instruments kick in, including distorted guitars at this point. The bass play is delicate in an awesome way, with so much care and concern put into supporting the overall sound. The band certainly made sure to put their best foot forward and perfect these tracks before releasing a full album, and it shows in full measure. “Entity” is an accurate and positive representation of the band as individual players and collectively as a whole. ‘The Hole’ was up-tempo with lots of energy and somewhat spastic vocals. The lyrics are more spoken than sung in the verses with a similar style of delivery in the choruses. The musicianship here is truly excellent, the lyrical content declarative and inclusive. ‘Entity’ closed the album in an extremely hard-hitting and familiar manner. The riffing guitar is very percussive, the whole track a rhythm-focused head-banger. A huge breakdown towards the close of the song (with the drummer wailing on the toms) shows more prodigious talent; the choruses were the highlight, alternating between a focus on the vocals and the instruments playing along with each other. A whisper ends the track, and essentially the album, and what an album it was. I wish Jackson Caged the best of luck with all their future endeavors; “Entity” impressed me thoroughly and is highly recommended!

What have been some of your best experiences together since becoming a band in 2009?

“We think some of our best experiences have been touring in Europe,  filming the video for ‘Darwinian’ in the mountains of Austria, recording in a studio in Reading for two weeks under the wing of our friend and manager Mike Bellend, and being privileged to work with the amazing producer Bobby Bloomfield from Does It Offend You, Yeah? (on this album), not to forget about the awesome gigs we’ve smashed along the way.”

What are the biggest changes and developments in your sound and musical style since that time?

“The biggest changes and developments (were had by) practicing, progressing and learning new styles and techniques as time goes by which leads to more technical musical structures within the songs (not all of course, it’s nice to keep things simple sometimes too) A more in-depth lyrical content (in the songs) seems to happen as a result of natural progression within the band as well.”

What life events and experiences led to the writing and recording of your latest album ‘Entity’?

“I think that we all have our ups and downs and good and bad times, sh*t to deal with through our day-to-day lives and sometimes hard knocks and blows that we struggle to recover from. These sorts of things are reflected in the mood of our music, the lyrics, and our live performances.”

Do you have any upcoming performances or recording dates scheduled for 2014?

“We will be touring in and around the middle of 2014; UK and a European tour dates are being filled as we speak. We also will hopefully by the end of the year start recording a new album in the studio, so hopefully this time next year we will have the next album out, so yes, (it will be a) busy year for us.”

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