CD Review: Stever – Playground Isolator

There comes a point when you might decide you want to change your direction. Musician Karen Stever had reached that point and decided to change the direction she was heading in. She was ready to do something different.

With the change in mindset came the decision to step away from the past and create a new persona; a new personality that would allow her to tap into her current feelings to compose music that was dark and moody. The multi-talented musician started writing, performing, and recording in her current persona that is simply known as Stever.

Karen Stever has had help in the creative process of developing her new persona. The music that is so much a part of Stever was created with the help of Frank Gryner. Gryner is a producer in Los Angeles that has worked with the likes of Rob Zombie, The Crystal Method, etc. With the help of Gryner, the musical part of the Stever persona began to take shape. Together, Stever and Gryner created twelve songs that ultimately became the 2008 release for Stever known as Playground Isolator.

Playground Isolator is an album that helps to bring back the feeling of listening for the first time to the initial releases of Trent Reznor or other bands that were at the forefront of the Industrial Rock style of music. The music on the album comes complete with orchestrations that help to add a certain amount of eeriness to it. Right from the first track, you get the feeling of finding yourself wandering around in the middle of an abandoned cabaret at a closed down carnival. With the ambient feel to the rock music created by Karen Stever and Frank Gryner, you can almost imagine Stever performing each of the songs on the release on the stage inside of a tent that would have been home to the carnival’s freak show.

Along with the eeriness that comes with the music on Playground Isolator, there are the lyrics that help to create the twelve songs on the album. Songs like “Sicko,” “Skin,”  and “Funeral Mute” describe what is going on inside of a person trying to live in a world that she doesn’t quite belong in. Add in “Thanks to Me” as Stever sings of why the situation has turned out the way it has. There is a lot of realism to the songs as they were written during a very dark period in Karen’s life.

The album’s lead-off track of “Sicko” begins with piano music that feels slightly off-kilter; not so much out of tune, but as if the instrument has been treated to sound off. That off-kilter feel to the music adds to the feel of the entire track and the entire album, as well.

The energetic feel to both “Funeral Mute” and “Thanks to Me” suggest that the two tracks stand out as songs that absolutely could be singles. The beginning of “Funeral Mute” suggests that the character (who is a deaf mute) might have found a place is a Circus setting where those deemed not exactly normal may find a place where they may survive better than if they were trying to survive to normal society. And the track “Thanks To Me” contains the strongest Rock and Roll approach of any of the tracks on the album as the Pop-Rock of the track is made stronger with the inclusion of the electric guitar.

Playground Isolator by Stever is a very solid rock release. There are so many strong tracks on the album that it is almost impossible to point out songs that stick out from the others. However, “Funeral Mute” and “Thanks To Me” could get a lot of play on hard rock/ alternative radio formats.

Along with the music, there is so much more to the Playground Isolator release. The album’s packaging adds to the eeriness of the album. With real skeletons being posed in realistic human-like positions, the artwork for the album really brings forward the feeling that this is a very dark release.

If you like the type of music that Trent Reznor has become known for throughout his career, you will definitely like Playground Isolator by Stever. But to say that Stever is a carbon copy of Reznor would be wrong; there are many differences between the two artists. One of the main differences is that Reznor’s band of Nine Inch Nails embraces the Industrial Rock genre and forms their music around it. Stever can and needs to stand on her own as her own style of musician as her music is only flavored by Industrial Rock.

Stever, with a lot of help from Frank Gryner, has made a release in Playground Isolator that could easily end up in your favorite albums of 2008.

To discover Stever and her music, you can find her on MySpace at www.myspace.com/stevermusicrocks.

Matheson

STEVER: Playground Isolator

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