Phoenix Rising – Ignite(EP) Review
By Matthew MacDermant
When the email requesting that I review Phoenix Rising’s debut EP, Ignite, pinged my inbox, I was not familiar with the band. In the days following, I listened to the four tracks on repeat as I went about my daily routine. At so many points, I felt an intimate connection with the song being played, as it became the soundtrack to everything I did. Quickly, I understood why Phoenix Rising was awarded Best New Artist and Best New Metal Band in Texas at the 2018 MXD MAG Rock and Metal Awards. I knew then that while many rock and metal fans, like me not long ago, are unaware of Phoenix Rising, the hard hitting chords, vocals, and message of this band will soon earn them a spot on the regular playlist rotation of countless listeners. Phoenix Rising will soon be on the tip of everyone’s tongue; the next household name in rock and metal.
The Dallas, Texas-based band formed in a less-than-orthodox manner when vocalist Kent Summerour placed an ad on Craigslist. He was looking for bandmates dedicated to the art of making authentic music with meaningful lyrics and chords, who were also prepared to hit the road and let their presence be known. Upcoming shows with national headliners like Orgy, (hed)p.e., and Saving Abel will give Phoenix Rising the exposure they deserve, while also giving fans of larger groups tracks that will draw them right into the mosh.
The six-member group has also put in considerable work to produce a music video that accompanies each song on the EP. These videos really add another layer to every track, allowing us to visually experience the story behind each song. This is especially true of the third track, “If I Say No,” which not only has a brilliant cinematic short film on par with the biggest players in the genre, but also a limited edition comic book which provides yet another dimension to explore the band’s message. This last touch is quite unique and shows just how much Phoenix Rising cares about the art they produce and the fans who are in tow with them on their rise from the ashes.
Notes on the Tracks
From the start, I understood why Do You Know is the opening track. This song lays the foundation, not only for the EP, but for Phoenix Rising as a band. The opening line opens up the listener to everything that follows and invites them on the journey. “It’s so hard when you’re starting out, fighting for scraps just to gain some clout.” This line speaks to the long road that led Phoenix Rising to their debut. It is also very relatable. It speaks to the struggle we all face in stepping outside the norm and building something that truly speaks to each and every one of us. As anyone who has ever tried to go against the current knows, the road is long and hard. The work ahead and the demons inside send most back to the straight and narrow. Phoenix Rising faced down those challenges and the hard work, both internal and external, has allowed the band to rise above the inertia of this society, the naysayers, and those who didn’t believe it was possible. This is an anthem for all you dreamers out there.
Open You Up speaks to the emptiness, vanity, and dishonesty all around us. It speaks to the society that fosters these things and the people who perpetuate them as norms. There are so many false faces and facades. People everywhere are putting on a show, using each other, and trying to step over on another to get ahead. Open You Up is all about unmasking this deceit and expelling it from our lives. Why have hundreds of fake friends who won’t have your back? Why associate with this sort of negativity at all? Find the courage to look into the people we have around us, into ourselves, and into our everyday world. If it doesn’t speak to who we are and who we want to be, if we find ourselves surrounded by liars and opportunistic people, have the courage to kick all that to the curb and strike a new path. All four tracks seem to strike this notion that there is a lot that will prevent us from being who we could be, and like the others, Open You Up sends the message that we can choose to take the hard road and be the phoenix rising above.
What If I Say No, the song with the accompanying comic book mentioned above, is perhaps my favorite of the four tracks. This track speaks to the alienation, violence, and dysfunction of modern society. It speaks to all the ways we as humans try to cope with this madness, from substance abuse to suicide. It’s an anthem for anyone who feels kept down and trapped by circumstance; for anyone who feels bullied or belittled; for anyone who feels the despair and weight of daily living. It shakes those ways of thinking and those patterns and screams, “What if I say No?!” It is a wake up call. It is a rallying cry. What if I say no to all this and start pushing back against those who aim to oppress us and hold us down? It pleads with the listener to put down the bottle and the gun and find the courage to seize control of life.
Lights Out is a mosh pit classic. It is a great outro for the EP. Life is hard and it will knock you down, but like Kent says, we can all be the phoenix and keep rising again and again. Keep fighting, keep putting in the work, and the K.O.s will come. No one becomes a contender without being knocked down and refusing to stay down. The phoenix rises from the ashes, not a bed of flowers. I think what Kent is saying here is that nothing is easy. No one is going to give you anything you’re not willing to earn by continuing to get up even after the hardest of hits. This is a track for the fighter in all of us. Dig deep, bang your head, and keep going until the final bell.
Ignite is an amazing debut and it sets a high bar for Phoenix Rising moving forward. I can’t say that I know the future, but I believe in this band and I am eager to see what lies ahead as their path unfolds toward an LP and wider touring. The world was dealt a blow with the loss of Chester Bennington just over one year ago. One of the first parallels I drew upon was listening to Hybrid Theory, a repeat classic for me and so many others. While Phoenix Rising is very different from Linkin Park and draws from many genres to build their sound, I do feel like the baton is, in a way, being tossed. Kent, Scott, Lee, Mark, Allan, and James could be to the generation rising now, what Chester, Mike, Dave, Joe, Rob, and Brad were to the generation before as “Papercut” and “One Step Closer” just started hitting the charts. To say the least, I feel the future is bright and personally, I am excited, pumped up, and ready to bang my head to the best new metal band, not just in Texas, but anywhere.