It s been a pretty trying year-and-a-half for OnceOver.
All the drama started back in June, 2007, when the Toledo rock band s then-singer Dave Ayling split for Chicago to pursue video editing.
The predicament left the guys with all this pent-up creative energy, but no mouthpiece. So Steve Dwyer who played drums and sang backup at the time picked up the main mic. And his vibrato-less, bell-clear high tenor fit.
Usually when a band loses its singer, it s curtain call, but we knew we had the ability to go on, Dwyer said from his Toledo home.
Things were looking up until February, when the band s manager, Shawn Jeffords, passed away from complications with Crohn s Disease.
After the numbness wore off, Dwyer decided that it was time to pay tribute to Jeffords a man he talked with every day and still calls his best friend. So the band started finishing its new album. And the guys think Jeffords would be proud of the 13-track result.
During our last conversation with him, he said, My last wish for you guys is to keep going. I believe in you guys and I want you to keep going on in honor of me, Dwyer said. So the band looked at each other and said, Well, this is what we have to do.
So I can honestly say this is our best album.
The new album, Red Right Returning, comes out Nov. 11, available at local record shops and BestBuy.com. The band also plays Frankie s Inner City on Saturday (the group s first show there in nearly five years), prefaced by a free in-store appearance at Culture Clash tomorrow.
OnceOver includes Steve Dwyer, his brother Paul Dwyer (guitar), Colin De Saint Victor (guitar), Nick Archer (bass), and Bruce Stelter (drums). The guys joined up in 2001 and quickly built a regional following. They played gigs with heavyweights Nonpoint and Soulfly. And they released three full-length albums, all self-produced and recorded at Steve s home studio in Toledo.
On Red Right Returning, OnceOver has returned to the type of aggressive, hammer-pounding tumult that always defined the band s sound. It s alternative hard rock music that might not quite make the hardcore grade, but stands next to heavy bands such as Sevendust, Killswitch Engage, and Deftones.
Not that the album is all bludgeoning rock. OnceOver also uses quietly fingerpicked sections and ambient textures to color and flavor its sound, instead of relying on a wall of chugga-chugga riffing. And while the beats and scream-y vocals of tracks such as Mugsy, Glow of the Sun, and The Broken Glass are brutally heavy, other songs such as Against the Wind and The Undertow include melodic passages that make the music more commercial.
It s no surprise that Steve Dwyer s lyrics were largely inspired by the death of Jeffords. He even says the lyrics for Against the Wind came directly from Jeffords eulogy.
The death was taking its toll on me, so as an artist and a musician, I put a lot of emotion into the lyrics. I wrote a lot about what it s like losing someone you love.
The album s title is an analogy of sorts for redemption and coming home.
The name Red Right Returning is a nautical term. When you re driving a boat, if you re coming back from sea, there will be all red buoys on your right, notifying you that you are on the right course. These buoys guide you home, Steve Dwyer said.
The metaphor deals with the band s last album, The Albatross, which had cover art depicting a sinking ship.
The idea is that the same ship that was sinking on the last album has somehow made it back to shore, he said. The ship meaning our band somehow made it back and is stronger than ever. It s about being triumphant through having everything that could go wrong, going wrong in our face.
And we re proud of ourselves that we kept going.
OnceOver, Dying to Know, and Beyond This Point will play at Frankie s Inner City, 308 Main St., on Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door and $8 in advance available from the bands. Information: 419.691.7464. OnceOver and Dying to Know will play a special in-store performance at Culture Clash, 4020 Secor Rd., tomorrow. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free. Information: 419-536-5683.