MusikMax Bicol: Breezy, Anthemic, Original

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By Paul

These are the times for breaking glass ceilings. Not so long ago, the thought of a black man with a real chance of commanding the world’s lone superpower was next to impossible. Now, Barack’s a rock star almost singing his way to being Dubya’s successor. Closer to home, glass ceilings are being broken too as Bicolano bands, real rock stars, breach the limits separating underground from mainstream with the release of MusikMax Bicol.

Produced by Rebolusyon Rekords of husband and wife Gerry and Mary Muñoz-Diwa in collaboration with Sound weavers Recording Studio, the compilation features 20 original songs from eight rising and prominent Bicolano bands that include Naga City’s Centerfold, Pentacle, Pandora’s Box, Idle Pitch, and Black Goleman; and Legazpi City’s Pepsi Paloma Experiment, Stolen shots, and Backyard Boy’s.

MusikMax is a franchise conceptualized by Rebolusyon Rekords, based in Makati City, to give much-awaited breaks to original music coming from the different provinces and regions in the country.

With genres ranging from pop-rock and rock alternative to hard rock and hip-hop, the newly-released Music Max Bicol, the first in the franchise, is far from being all the same, however. Only their singers being Bicolano’s put the featured tracks on same ground.

Centerfold opens the album with X Song, one of the best songs in the record as it sounds almost like a REM if not for Van Navarro’s metallic female voice on the lead, and ends with hip hop carrier single Albay Song by Backyard Boy’s another of the record’s assets though it is hauntingly similar to and noticeably inspired by Black-Eyed Peas’ APL Song, which forgivably becomes overly anthemic in some parts.

Pyrotechnics (Track 4) by Pepsi Paloma Experiment also lifts the album with breezy rendition loosely comparable to disbanded Orange and Lemons’ style. Stolen shot’s Chocolate Brown Coffee (Track 16) and Moving’ To The Top (Track 17) which veer ska are welcome inclusions and should make good choices for road songs.

Popularity of hardcore and heavy metal genres seems on the wane now, with most of the top acts including foreign ones previously into these music types now reinventing themselves. But Pentacle’s and Pandora’s Box’s songs are still acceptable additions in the record though some may find them anachronistically included. To be fair, Pandora’s Box is a pioneer in the local rock act and should deserve homage, and hey, In Sepia (Track 9) is not bad.

Backyard Boy’s on the repertoire is among the record’s unfamiliar turn. (Imagine compiling Eminem and Josh Groban in the same album.)

Featured tracks range from sentimental and angst-driven voices to highflying pride-of-place overtures in the background of Bicol Region’s alternately bleak and rosy situation. In Albay Song, there’s even an allusion to the devastation wreaked by Super Typhoon Riming in Albay Province in 2006.

Although the record falters in some ways, it’s a good buy. The ground-breaking spirit that goes with it, best expressed by its handsome packaging, more than compensates what it lacks technically. After all, it’s Bicolano homegrown music at its most earnest, which could break glass ceilings at their highest.

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