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The first solo album from Max Heinegg, former vocalist of the Boston-based hard rock band The High Ceilings, comes to fans this month as a pleasantly mellow surprise. The release is a welcome departure from the old-yet-successful Heinegg rock style, as the artist seeks to transform himself into a singer-songwriter with this emotion-rich set of tunes. But the soulful frontman doesn’t entirely leave his rock roots behind, as most of these songs are thickly coated in layers of electric guitars and instrumental ornamentation.
By June, which Heinegg describes on his website as “the first record I had made that really sounded like me,” gains strength from the meshing of emotive rock sounds with simple melodies resounding with soft, heartfelt messages. Despite the departure from his long-standing metal band status, Heinegg insists that his band’s recent break-up wasn’t strictly from creative differences: in fact, many of the members of The High Ceilings offered their musical abilities during the production of their old comrade’s debut. The new album that Heinegg had been working on since the band split up is not so much an insult to his old faithful metal-rock fans, but merely an expression of his overlooked stylistic soft side.
How soft? The songs were inspired by the birth of Heinegg’s daughter, and much of these tender emotions are unveiled with simple melodic acoustic guitar and vocal solos in gently titled songs such as “Sway” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.”
The disc begins with the title song, a sweet and somber ballad, where Heinegg’s uniquely silky vocal intonations infuse an ethereal element to the percussively-accented melody. From then on, the tempo varies between solemnly slow and slightly upbeat among the songs, though a strong rhythmic presence reigns powerfully throughout each of them.
The album’s strongest number is “This May,” a smooth mid-tempo piece perhaps best enjoyed on a crummy day, with congo drum-peppered beats paddling through a sea of harmonic voices.
Upon the backdrop of accusations of “sellout” from his former hard rock fans, Heinegg’s new album of soulful meditations is hardly cause for alarm. His talented musicianship stands on its own as a force full of raw emotion, vivacity and somber eloquence. Regardless of its place amidst contemporary music trends or past musical associations Heinegg might have, this recording stands its ground as a singularly affecting work.
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