Jamie Rowe is no stranger to the Heaven’s Metal universe, from his start with brother Mick Rowe in Tempest in the late 80’s, then developing his gritty signature vocal style with Guardian in the 90’s, Adrian Gale and other bands post millenium, and solo albums squeezed out between other ventures. As much as Jamie’s most recent solo effort This Is Home found him flirting with country, fans have been awaiting his return to rockier pursuits. Kalamity Kills represents that return to the hard rock sound he is best known for. Yes, this is Jamie Rowe solo, with fellow Guardian collaborator Jamey Perrenot providing most of the instrumentation, but a rotating cast of guests fills out the sound and makes one believe that with some touring members, Jamie and Jamey could take Kalamity on the road as a full rock band.

Amidst jangly disjointed keys “Anthem” opens the album in its most straightforward guitar driven hard rock, making Psalm 23 a battlecry where “My faith is strong It will not bend,” with Luke Easter on bgv’s and Ray Luzier (Korn) on drums. “Dearest Enemy (Pressure)” brings pop sensibility to the rock as the keys rival guitars for dominance in this ode to peer pressure. Chorus has that Skillet or even sing songy Green Day flavor to it. Female vocals by Amber Rowe, ripping guitar solo by former Guardian six-stringer Tony Palacios and drums by Ray Luzier. “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” sounds immediately recognizable to these Gen X ears, but the cover is a heavier improvement to Information Society’s 1988 single. KK has a definite electronic rock bent, so the cover fits right into the style of the album. Kiarely Castillo (Conquer Divide) provides the female vocals to counterpart Jamie, and Steve Sinatra plays drums. “Dark Secrets” slows the tempo down with this tale about a less than pure heart, and although one hears vocal bits reminiscent of latter day Guardian, Jamie doesn’t stay there, varying his vocal output to fit the mood. Again, Ray Luzier is on the drums on this and the next song. “The Chemistry of Meant to Be” seems to be a hard rocking ode to love, but the chorus points more to infatuation-

“The chemistry of meant to be
Is killing me
The chemistry of meant to be
A reckless love
Is the perfect drug for me”

“A.L.I.E.N.” reminds me of Newsboys for several reasons. Similar subject matter to Newsboys’ song “Shine,” for sure, but the big singable chorus with the gang vocals (by Jamey Perrenot) and pop sensibilities bring the Aussies to mind. Steve Sinatra plays drums, and sidenote- my friend Ed Macke came up with the acronym A.L.I.E.N. for A Light In Every Nation. “Hellfire Honey” rocks hard with this tale of an online porn queen that seems to be less about her and more about the “moralizing hypocrites (that) watch my show.” Honey vocals by Julia Lauren Bullock, lead guitars by Ace Von Johnson (L.A. Guns), and drums by Greg Upchurch (3 Doors Down). “Burn” is a catchy number about a man who’s burned out by life and “hanging by a thread,” ready to throw it all away. Gang vocals by Jamey Perrenot and drums by Steve Sinatra. “Sinners Welcome” is the standout track that brings this album to life, a modern hard rocking “Amazing Grace,” ending in the same jangly keys that started off the album and the snippets of conversation scattered throughout most of this album’s songs. Female vocals by Amber Rowe and drums by Max Lang. “I Still Believe” is a cover of the famous 1986 song by The Call, although Russ Taff’s version of it on his self-titled album is the one I remember the most. KK’s rocking version with Jamie’s gritty vocals does the original justice. Female vocals by Madelyn Rowe and drums by Greg Upchurch. “Amen” is atypical of the rest of the album in its keyboard and vocal simplicity, but closes the album with a selah that ends this introspective journey with a definitive end to the story.

Hard to believe that Kalamity is an indie release. It was a successful Kickstarter project, but the finished product is even better than most major labels would have funded. Packaging is beautiful, from the cover, to the 24 page booklet full of artwork for every single song, and a whole page just to thank all the contributors by name. Sonically, Kalamity’s debut is impressive. It seamlessly blends electronic rock sounds with hard rock to tell a tale of highs and lows, and ultimately salvation. As much as famous actors worry that they will be “stuck” in the film or series that brought them to fame, so do singers fear the same about their best gig. Let this album be proof that Jamie Rowe will never be typeset as “that Guardian singer.” Jamie’s got the skills and the imagination to take him wherever he wants to go, and I’m confident our audience will follow him.

(indie) -4 out of 5 stars

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3 thoughts on “KALAMITY KILLS: Self-Titled

  1. That’s quite a cast of characters! Man, I didn’t expect Russ Taff and The Newsboys mentioned here?

  2. I enjoy reading the up-to-date in-depth review of the groups and how you connect the dots with various groups from the past and how it makes me pull up old albums again. Thanks for the great writing.

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