Just when you thought all the great releases were done for the year, Nathan Gray (of BoySetsFire) is back with a great-sounding collection of punk rock tracks ready for your ears. Nathan Gray and The Iron Roses have released Rebel Songs today, and it features some pulsating songs filled with marksmanship passion and poise. The title track features Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, and there really is so much great material to be found on Rebel Songs. When asked about the direction he went with on this record, Gray mentioned, “Well for one, it is wildly more vulnerable and nerve wracking to sing these lyrics as opposed to screaming them. There’s no place to hide the words. It’s no longer range induced. It is a very exposed feeling, but it is exactly what I needed, and what my music needed – to be stripped back down to its core, and put a focus on the message itself. In my own journey through healing, I started to understand that no one can influence change in the world without turning that inward to heal themselves first. As such, what we do in our own lives influences our political leanings and world view.” His improved songwriting pays major dividends as Gray has released yet another career-defining album in his discography.
The album opens with “The Reckoning,” that features a steady beat and a great rhythm in the style of melodic punk rock bands like Social Distortion and The Bouncing Souls. Gray’s vocals are crisp and clear, and his lyrical approach to each of these songs really showcases his storytelling in vast ways. The second track, “Look Alive,” features a rapped verse by an artist called EUGENIUS, and the song really has a good bounce to it, and should be a crowd favorite when Gray takes this band to the states this coming February.
The title track ended up being my favorite in the set, and the use of McIlrath’s vocals paired with Gray’s make for a powerful sounding single. Gray sings with the utmost passion on the chorus of, “One heart / One voice / Backs against the wall with no choice / These rebel songs, united chords,” and it’s evident of why this song is garnering so much attention in the punk landscape.
As great as the early material is on this record, the album never loses momentum as it unfolds. Politically-charged songs like “Capitol Stairs,” “Million,” and “Lost” bring out the rebel in Nathan Gray, and he makes it clear that there’s plenty of work to do in the punk rock community to get the word out about U.S. democracy on the brink of collapsing. The album closes out with the mid-tempo song called “That Said,” and it’s really hard to not feel the passion being brought forth on Rebel Songs. With plenty of momentum from this record going into the new year, it’s only a matter of time before others catch on to the magic that Gray and his bandmates have crafted on this album.