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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Memorials

The Memorials

Review by Rick Damigella

The debut from The Memorials is the kind of album that fans of heavy, complex music who are thirsting for something new and original with which to fill their ears will definitely appreciate. Formed by drummer Thomas Pridgen, late of The Mars Volta, The Memorials feature the incredibly voiced Viveca Hawkins and six-stringer Nick Brewer at their core.

For a debut album, it is incredibly well crafted. No two songs sound the same. It is deep and progressive in nature, but not so much so that it isn’t accessible to a more casual listener. It is a challenging first-listen, but in a very good way, with its shifting moods and modes. From start to finish, the release is set up to be a linear listen with short, sometimes non-existent breaks, giving it an almost concept album feel during playback without being one. The Memorials is a serious album with very obvious levels of hard work put into it

At first, one might be tempted to say the band’s sound is powered by Thomas Pridgen’s virtuoso drumming, though it would also be easy to also say the sonic wall built by Nick Brewer’s deft handling of a fret board is the driving force. Or perhaps it’s the refreshing, original sound and style of Viveca Hawkins commensurate singing skills. But once you immerse yourself in the album, you will find it is the combination of these highly trained and skilled musicians (all of whom studied at the Berklee College of Music) along with songs ranging from complex to radio-friendly, which make their self-titled debut so strong. The Memorials is a worthy listening experience and could be one of the most original sets of music you hear this year.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
We Go To War

This is as strong an album opener as you could hope for. Wasting no time, the one-two assault of Pridgen and Brewer’s instruments smacks the listener hard with their combined groove. Viveca Hawkins owns the vocal space in one of her strongest performances on the album. At six and-a-half minutes plus, “We Go To War” is a relentless piece, demanding your attention.

Natural Disaster

Subtly cross fading from the lead song to an organ tone opening, this track continues the driving urgency of The Memorials’ sound. The guitar riff-heavy opening gets toned back slightly once Hawkins’ voice joins in, where the song structure takes things in a more progressive, near fusion mode.

Day Dreamer

A more direct segue continues the unbroken listening experience. The guitar tones are more dialed back, as the band shifts to a jazz-based structure, which Hawkins matches perfectly with a very different vocal delivery from the previous tracks. Things get louder and heavier as the song progresses, right up to a vintage fusion keyboard line added to great effect in the latter half of the piece.

Lets Party

Barely a beat passes before this upbeat number kicks in. While I generally loathe comparing one artist to another, it is oft-times a necessary evil, and something about this song, perhaps it’s the vocal delivery or the overall tone, reminds me of early Prince, if his distortion pedals were set to stun. As the name would suggest, this is a fun song, up-beat, almost bouncy in its rhythm. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, and unfortunately, one of the shortest numbers here.


Not allowing a beat to be missed between songs, Pridgen keeps the pace moving with a complex rhythm line as Brewer dials his tone back, giving Hawkins her most up front position on the album yet. There is something irresistible in the way she emotes the lyric “music is my best friend, I ain’t never lonely.”


The unbroken listen continues with a much more mainstream tone and style in this song. There is absolutely no reason this track shouldn’t be getting frequent play status on rock stations. The subtle use of pieces of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, effected and woven throughout the number, is an exceedingly nice touch.


There is a far edgier, metalized groove here than on the previous several tracks. The chorus rings with angst as Hawkins declares the words of the acronym-named song. Running nearly eight minutes, the song shifts to a much lighter tone at the three minute mark into a nearly R&B groove from an 80s love song, but this is quickly thrown aside as the anger-laden chorus rushes back to the forefront. At the 4:30 mark the song downshifts again, this time letting Brewer peel off a killer solo as Hawkins vocalizes alongside. Featuring a long fade, this segues perfect into the following piece


Nick Brewer gets to display a cleaner tone on this quieter piece, as does Thomas Pridgen. While the core sound from the start is a progressive take on R&B, there are definite touches of 80s AOR in the rhythm guitar line; a very nice and unusual touch. The song shifts to something akin to a bossa nova rhythm at the bridge and continues through to the last minute which morphs into a space-born synthesizer playing down to the final note.

Born to Shine

In a linear listen, your ears will be hit hard from the dual assault of the guitar and drums kicking back in at the top of this song. A jazz-inspired mode starts the piece, with Hawkins’ voice acting as an additional instrument during the initial third of the song. Proper vocals kick in as the song’s rhythms grow ever more complex.


This mid-tempo number eschews the rhythmic complexity of the previous but is no less lacking in dynamics. Brewer plays a cleaner tone and Hawkins’ voice gets the chance to sound across a wider range than on some of the other songs.

Why Me?

Get ready for whiplash, as this tune’s intro comes straight from the schools of thrash and hardcore punk, but shifts quickly into a discordant free form vibe. Viveca Hawkins holds the number together expertly, alternating between singing and near-spoken word performance.

Give Me the Stuff

The experimental beats and arrangements continue with this piece but are not nearly as extreme as the on the previous. Pridgen’s drumming is exceptional and Brewer puts down a blistering metal-influenced guitar line.

I Remember You

Flowing in a much more mainstream vein, this is one of the more radio-friendly numbers on the album, standing in stark contrast to the previous pair of songs. Hawkins’ voice comes more to the front of the mix as well. It would have stood fine on its own as an album closer, but we get an unlisted bonus track!

We Go To War (Radio Edit)

Unlisted on the album jacket, but no less welcome is this second take on the opener. With nearly three minutes cut out of the original version, it also sounds as if there is an ever so slightly more polished bit of the mastering, obviously done for radio. These changes don’t diminish the original but definitely make the listener appreciate the efforts put into the lengthier, louder, album cut.

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