Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Redlight King

Raised in the steel town Hamilton, Ontario, songwriter and singer Mark “Kaz” Kasprzyk released two albums as “Kazzer” in the early 2000s. When drugs and depression derailed his plans, the three-year sober Kaz hit the road to the west coast and poured his pain-fueled creativity into rebuilding his music career.

Official Redlight King website
His new musical project, Redlight King, belts out a redemptive rock anthem blended with rap and peppered with hip-hop. Named for the starting red lights of a drag race, Redlight King released its debut album Something for the Pain in 2011 on June 28th with Hollywood Records.

The album chronicles his triumph over adversity and choosing to turn life around. Rock guitar, bass and drums dominate eleven distinctive tracks, most songs at just over three minutes. A variety of expressive styles flow throughout the tracks, seamlessly fusing old-school rock sounds with a modern rap music influence.

In fact, the song Old Man samples the Neil Young iconic 1972 hit, the first-ever artist approved to do so. This nod from Young speaks volumes of Kaz’s dogged perseverance to overcome obstacles. A fierce competitor, Kaz grappled with the Canadian judo team as a 2000 Olympic hopeful. Old Man salutes the tumultuous relationship with his father, an amateur stock car racer. Unexpectedly, it also convinces us that Neil Young and Kaz’ rap-rock style belong together. No easy feat.

The dulcet title track launches into the dark days with a hard beat and driving bass line. Recovery and redemption storylines play out in Bullet in My Hand and Comeback with heavy percussion. “I’m diggin’ up six feet tonight,” sings Kaz with a raw honesty about climbing out of addiction. The hard-driving beat, the vocal intensity, and the dark lyrics paint the desperate scene of Underground. The pensive songs that look back are grounded in rock, while tracks looking forward showcase rap, albeit a lyrical rap, style.

Built to Last pulls in hip hop rhythms, rap chants with a hard-edged rock foundation. “I’ve been beat up and broken down/And I’ve been there a thousand times/I may have walked through the worst in hell my friend/And we all got our reasons why.” Offering smooth solidarity, Little Darlin promises to get it right this time around in a love song.

Rap-centric Drivin’ to Kalifornia catches Kaz leaving a cold, dark past behind him and channeling his energy into “livin’ free . . . where the sun shines.” The dark side of City Life is a tribute to the working class struggles of his industrial hometown. A softer, acoustic guitar graces When The Dust Settles Down as Kaz reflects on mistakes and closes with the refrain “start over again.”

Don’t let the rap-rock tag scare you. Clear vocals, a blend of hard beats, strong guitars, and deep reflections couple with a determined honesty that pulls the wide range of influences together into a cohesive sound that works. Though based on his personal struggles, each track tells a relatable story. Kaz sings, “Now I know I was built to last.” I have to agree; Kaz and Redlight King will be sticking around.

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