Toronto’s Second Pass is described on Reverbnation as drawing influence from Seattle grunge. Nothing could be more true as far this hard rock outfit is concerned. Slow grinding chords laced with atmospheric riffs dominate here. Who ever said “grunge is dead?”
Their most recent full length release, Fragments, is loaded with plenty of sludgy little ditties. “Confession” quickly overcomes its Zepplin-ish opening stomp to evolve into a thick riff Kim Thayil would be proud of. Unfortunately though, the song doesn’t really go anywhere else, but there’s nothing wrong with a heavy riff repeated…uh…heavily. Where “Confession” is supremely heavy, “Biting My Tongue” is thunderously rocking. Some great drum and bass opening work from Richard Rizzo and Andrew Buntain lays a solid foundation for Steve Pass’ riffs. While not exactly a grunge influence, TooL’s Adam Jones definitely is one of Pass’ guitar heroes as evidenced in Pass’ excellent bridge work here in “Biting My Tongue.”
“Broken Life,” the album’s shortest track, is also its most uptempo. Like the rest of Second Pass’s material, it is sludge heavy, but moves swiftly along. “Why” betrays Second Pass’ less obvious love of melody. Some lighter chords create some welcome buoyancy in the middle of the album. “Doesn’t Matter” steers the album back into the soupy grunge sonicscape, but the riffing feels rather uninspired here. “Last Man” adds a little psychedelica to Second Pass’ overwhelmingly grungy sound. Steve Pass manages to blend the psychedelic riffs with the heavy ones and produces one of the most interesting songs on the album. “The Universe” rounds out Fragments with some of the speed that Second Pass demonstrated on “Broken Life.” Both these tracks (“Broken Life” and “The Universe”) remind one of Soundgarden’s short songs “Kickstand” and “Ty Cobb,” but there’s more going on here than in those songs.
Putting Second Pass’ sound all together are the solid vocals by Veronica McNamee. Some of the most interesting bands that came out of the grunge/Seattle/early 90s rock revolution were fronted by females. Here in the mid 2010s, it is McNamme’s vocals that really make Second Pass stand out. Female fronted rock bands are much more prevalent now than then, but her throaty, soulful delivery reminds us that not all women need to sound like Taylor Swift, or Amy Lee for that matter, to deliver some truly engaging and interesting rock vocals. McNamee does both.
Grunge throwback bands are popping up everywhere, but not many of them have stayed as true to their influences as Second Pass has thus far. Let’s hope they don’t sell out eventually and take on too many mainstream characteristics. L7 might be reuniting, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more from Second Pass over the next few years.