Music is nothing without a purpose. Whether it be an escape from reality for the artist, just to make people feel good or something much deeper… music is an art form and should be treated as such. Every once in awhile, a band comes along that has a message so deep, so important and so special that it can’t be ignored. For Versus and vocalist Joe Taylor, this was brought on by the tragic loss of his stepfather to suicide 2 years ago. No one should have to feel the pain that goes along with that and, as someone who has dealt with this many times… I can say it’s something I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through. From that point, he vowed that he would use Versus’ music as a catalyst for change, a way to convey suicide awareness, as well as help individuals with mental illness. Signed to Revival Recordings in late 2016, the band is set to release their debut album, The Cardinal, fresh off a tour with labelmates Alesana and Charlatan, as well as, support from Artery Recordings’ For the Win and Stay Sick Recordings’ Vesta Collide. The Cardinal is a deep look into the psyche of someone who has dealt with the thoughts that come with dealing with suicide, depression, mental illness and a horrible hand dealt in life, in general. It’s not for the faint of heart but, for those who take the plunge, it’s worth every second and it will change your life for the better.
The album opens with the title track, led in by piano and Taylor’s simple question: “What’s the point in finding something, if you always want a little bit more?” A way of pointing out the greed that plagues this world, no one wants to be content with what they have… they always want more and more, until the greed they have consumes them. The rest of the band comes crashing in like a tidal wave, led heavily by Taylor’s angst-ridden screams and drummer Anthony Zaragoza’s heavy hitting drum beats. The chorus has some of the most memorable lyrics on the album, sung by guitarist/clean vocalist Joshua Kendrick: “Break me, break me… from how I’m feeling lately. I’ve been waiting… I’ve needed you to save me!” The riff that follows the first chorus has stuck with me since the first time I heard this song, acoustically, on the bands’ weekly live stream on the Revival Recordings Facebook page. The bridge of this track, a part that Taylor sings, while the band comes in for emphasis, falling silent for the rest of the time, clearly represents what this track seeks to tell you.
“No Safety” was the first track released by the band, coinciding with their signing announcement, and couples with “Stone Heart” to call out pharmaceutical companies and doctors who think a pill can cure everything. As if reaching out, talking to someone who is like-minded or has dealt with the things you are going through, someone who can relate, is not going to be enough. These tracks compliment each other perfectly. While “No Safety” has a heavier, more urgent sound to it, “Stone Heart” has a lot of orchestral and electronic parts that give it more of an ominous tone. Perfectly executed, these tracks expose the pharmaceutical industry’s exploitation of those who have real problems that can be fixed without the need for medication. The spiking of prices for these medications has become absolutely abhorrent, proving that they care nothing about the people they are supposed to be saving. The almighty dollar is the king and, in this industry, it’s apparent that isn’t changing.
*wipes tears* “Empty”… this is a track that really hits home. A piano-led ballad that has such emotion, such a melancholy feel that you can’t help but feel as if you’ve stepped into the shoes of the individual described here. You can hear Taylor’s voice crack in several parts on this song and it really speaks to the way that he can convey emotion. He refuses to hold back and that’s what makes this track so powerful. The harmonies between Kendrick and Taylor on this track are phenomenal… showing their strengths and complimenting one another exquisitely. This track is about the feeling of being alone, when someone you love or greatly respect… someone who has held you together for so long, decides that you’re no longer worth their time. If you’ve ever felt alone, or you are currently feeling alone, this song will both pierce and inspire you that, in the end, you’re never alone.
“Poly” and “Zig Zag” provide an incredible closing to this album. “Poly” has a nu-metal feel to it, through the main riff. This is a track is told from the perspective of someone who tries a polyamorous (i.e. more than one partner, for those unaware of the meaning) life, coupled with drugs, affection and alcohol, to deal with the pain of not being able to connect, emotionally or romantically, with someone. The heart turns cold and causes one to become callous, deterring many, if not all, of those who once surrounded you with love. In the chorus, especially, the instrumentals become very heavy and destructive, further conveying the message of how destructive this affliction can be. “Zig Zag” is a track about how important it is for us, as a collective, to make a mark on this world. There is always such focus on the negative things in life, in media especially but that can change… if only we take the initiative to make it change. Pills, drugs, alcohol, self-harm… these are all temporary fixes to a problem that deserves much greater attention. Stop, look and listen to those around you… be a catalyst for good in the world.
The Cardinal is one of the most raw, powerful and important albums I’ve ever heard. It calls attention to many things that, honestly, people just don’t want to talk about. This album seeks to create unity, not division, in a nation that has had the wool pulled over it’s eyes for far too long. Take the time to help those around you, be there for those who might need it and spread positive vibes everywhere you go. It is only through this that we, as a people, will be able to regain the peace, harmony and understanding that the world so truly needs. Join the Versus Movement and pick up The Cardinal, out March 3rd on Revival Recordings… you’ll be glad you did.
The Cardinal (Official Album Stream)
“Stone Heart” (Official Music Video)
“No Safety” (Official Music Video)