Your Heart was Built on a Graveyard of Lies is the first full-length release from The Challis Effect, the solo project of Boise, Idaho native, Matthew “Axl” Brammer. Prior to writing as The Challis Effect, Brammer had spent a decade playing in extreme metal bands. In December 2011 he decided to tread a different musical path; a project, which would ultimately put his skills both a songwriter and multi-talented musician into the spotlight – whether that was the intention or not.
Your Heart was Built on a Graveyard of Lies draws influence from many different genres, but sits most comfortably somewhere in the region of post-grunge, where particular influences from bands such as Default and Tantric can be heard.
Opening track “Pass the Days” sets the tone for the record, drawing us in with its acoustic opening, and introducing Brammer’s signature vocal delivery. There is a raw, gravelly quality to his voice and every word is delivered confidently and authenticity.
It is evident from tracks such as “You Fail Me” that as well as being a powerful songwriter, Brammer still has at least one foot in the metal genre. He often layers fairly heavy distortion over the acoustic instrumentation, which for the most part builds depth and adds intensity – it is particularly effective in “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Watch It All Die” where it feels almost cathartic. However, in some cases the distortion can be a bit overpowering and could perhaps be used more sparingly to provide a more varied dynamic overall.
It is evident from Your Heart was Built on a Graveyard of Lies that Brammer has a knack for writing emotionally fuelled alt rock songs, and his raspy delivery enriches his lyrics with a genuine sincerity. Due to the strength of the songwriting, many of the tracks would work with nothing more than an acoustic guitar accompaniment, which is a testament to Brammer’s proficiency at his craft. Standout tracks include the completely acoustic “Fade” which showcases Brammer’s songwriting skills perfectly, “Watch it All Die” and “Better Days.”
The physical release of the album contains four bonus tracks; covers of “Cumbersome” and “Breathless” by Seven Mary Three and 40 Below Summer, respectively, and two piano demos; “Brittany’s Serenade II: The Memory” and “Not for Me,” which showcase a softer side to Brammer’s writing, and hint at yet another direction he could pursue if he chose to.
Overall, Your Heart was Built on a Graveyard of Lies is a solid collection, and deserves the attention it has recently received on the ReverbNation charts. While at times, the tracks may be a little too busy and distortion heavy for some, the songwriting and delivery are consistently strong. One thing is for sure – there is no denying the level of talent and dedication that gone into recording this album, and that is something that Brammer should definitely be proud of, and something that the independent music industry should be celebrating.
Review by Ross Barber
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)