REVIEW: Executive Order — A to Z (SINGLE)

Power trios, long out of favor in the rock music world, have experienced a resurgence over the last decade plus. There are, perhaps, many reasons for this. Some are obvious. Times are leaner than ever before for musicians with recording sales drying up and a dearth of well-paying live venues. There is something to be said, as well, for differences in energy between four, five, and three piece configurations. Many will argue that stripping down a rock band to as few components as possible has the effect of streamlining a band’s instrumental attack. Power trios condense the already enormous potential inherent to quintets and quartet set-ups. The Honolulu, Hawaii based band’s new single “A to Z” from the album All Bleed Red is a vital piece of work proving a power trio is perfect for delivering this powerful musical statement.

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The track has an authoritative groove from the outset. Even a cursory listen reveals hard-edged funk influences running through the track and, coupled with its rock strut, the single packs a wallop. Songwriter and front-man Joseph Olson has the necessary gravitas to tackle such a muscular style and his lyrical content strikes the right balance between accessibility without sacrificing intelligence. This isn’t mindless bash and thud rock. It’s a potent synthesis of brawn and brains that lingers long after its last notes.

The recurring use of the title sounds out of place. It doesn’t weigh the track down, however, and the song has a strong chorus. Executive Order understand how to build dramatic rock songs. “A to Z” escalating predictable fashion isn’t a drawback because many listeners will enjoy how skillfully they execute its turns. The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun and that’s true, but the art of pouring old wine into new bottles renders such observations moot.

Guitarist Rich Elg, a New Jersey transplant who has called Hawaii home since childhood, began playing a little later than most. Starting in his late teens never stunted his natural aptitude for the six string, however, and he is among the unquestioned highlights of the song. His riffing and rhythm guitar playing are solid, but the lead guitar work he adds to the single ramps up its emotional import. It has a definite personality rather than offering faceless electric guitar pyrotechnics.

The band’s third member, bassist James Anthony Hewahewa Christian, is an excellent rhythm section partner and lays down unobtrusive yet supportive bass lines. Unobtrusive doesn’t mean staid, however, as Christian’s playing moves throughout the track with fluid musicality. The absence of a second guitarist calls on bass players to occupy more sonic real estate in power trio setups and he’s more than up to the task. “A to Z” further solidifies the band’s claim as being among the best modern rock acts working today. They draw deeply from the past but there’s nothing overtly retro about the track. It snaps and crashes with conviction and never overextends itself. Newcomers looking for a powerhouse modern rock band will be happy to discover Executive Order.

Colin Jordan