With their self-produced debut album 'Awaken', Mark Staley, Justin Vanegas, Josh Leong and Chad Helmonds look to bring their diverse and unique brand of modern rock to audiences far beyond the secluded and scenic Humboldt County they call home. The band's first demos sounded more like jangly pop than the harder rock found on 'Awaken'. The band credits most of this change to the incorporation of Chad Helmonds, a drummer more rooted in metal than the 90's pop and alternative influence of the other members, into the band to replace the founding drummer. This influence can be felt throughout 'Awaken', especially on the heavy, driving 'Misdirection' and 'Heroine' as well as the epic album closer 'Pull In Case of Fire'. Laden Swallow also shows an inherent knack for creating touching and poignant songs with album highlight 'Blast Off'. The song was originally two songs that Mark would play together as one during solo acoustic shows. These two songs were molded into one cohesive whole during the recording of the album and is now one of many stand out songs on the album. Press about 'Awaken': 'Like any first effort by an indie band -- they proudly handled every aspect of production, from recording to artwork -- it's rough around the edges, but the strength of Laden Swallow's songs, mostly written by guitarist and singer Mark Staley carries the record. Laden Swallow is nothing if not versatile, and they made it work; the first four tracks on "Awaken" are thick slabs of pop-punk verging on chugging metal, without relying on the hackneyed clichés of either genre. It isn't until the song 'Until Then', that a more perfect synthesis emerges: Staley's strong vocal presence has a little room to breathe, guitarist Josh Leong's soaring riffs act as a counterpoint, backing vocals kick in; the result is heavenly.' - Joel Hartse for the Times-Standard -------- ' 'This love is a drug... you'll be my heroine,' cried Mark Staley on Laden Swallow's debut album Awaken. Comparing love to a drug and using a play on the words - heroine and the drug heroin - Staley builds an anthem for the broken-hearted. Fueled by members of the Humboldt State football team chanting, 'You'll be my Heroine,' this song has a power and a drive like, well, a football team. Members of the Humboldt State girls-volleyball team sing/chant back up on this song to give it an ethereal, unearthly feel. With Chad Helmonds' loud hard drumming, Josh Leong's backbone lead guitar and Justin Vanegas' dependable interesting bass playing, Heroine is the landmark song on Laden Swallow's debut album. Some of the best songs on Awaken are ones Staley just wrote for the sake of music. Track number six is a song called Blast Off, a simple acoustic piece about love lost and Staley counts from 1 to 10 and then back down again. Between the intense screaming and hard loud rock songs like Misdirection to the acoustic quiet love songs this album shows off the musicians' versatility.' ~Melody Stone for the Jack Online.
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