The last few years have produced a number of unexpected revivals in the rock and metal scenes. In the case of some bands and solo projects, the gap between releases has been multiple decades, and this is exactly what happened with Applehead. Applehead is the solo project of Greg Minier, who was a part of California based thrash band The Crucified until their break-up in 1993. Under the Applehead name Minier released an album titled Meaning in 1992, where he performed almost everything himself and broke away from thrash in favor of a combination of hard rock and grunge. Some thirty years later Minier has revived the project alongside bassist Jaymi ‘Pinkbassman’ Millard (Slaughter), and with this long gap comes some noticeable stylistic changes. Instead of trying to recapture the sound of the previous album, The Light Side of the Apple goes for a mix of hard rock and heavy metal that feels like a mix of what the two genres have explored since Applehead has been gone.
Although the album title may be The Light Side of the Apple, that’s certainly not talking about the riffs. Opener “Raze Hell” comes in with a booming, huge sound and crunchier guitar that feels somewhere between 2000s hard rock and 90s stoner rock. Where Meaning sounded very much like a product of its time with that distinctive 90s grunge tone and production, its follow-up feels like its pulling from across the decades and this gives Applehead a lot more variety than before. Songs like “Pretty Creepy” and “And Then the Rain Comes Down) slow things down a bit and go for a denser tone and increased emphasis on melody that remind me of a cross between 80s glam and 90s gothic rock. These songs in particular give off some Type O Negative vibes with much more somber hooks that draw you in right from the start. But then you’ve got returns to full-on metal, as “A Harmonic Minor” brings back that thrash fire alongside some melodic leads that bring in a bit more of that early heavy/power metal sound. The Light Side of the Apple concludes with its most ambitious track, the thirteen minute “The Destiny” (which was offered as a single track and three separate pieces for some reason on the promo material that was provided). Here Minier explores different stylistic elements throughout each section, going for high energy hard rock early on but shifting towards more of a progressive rock approach around the halfway point. I do appreciate the ambition here, but the slower sections dragged on a bit too long for me and I found the faster ones stood out more, particularly the heavy metal flourishes that make up the last few minutes. The production is also worth mentioning, as the album has a nice full sound that captures the decades of rock and heavy metal while still giving everything a feel that fits in today’s musical landscape. “In Pouring Rain” even opens with a sample from the actual studio session, which is a neat touch.
Greg Minier’s singing has gotten a bit lower in the three decades that have passed, giving him a pitch closer to some of the grittier hard rock and heavy metal singers out there compared to Meaning where he sounded very close to a number of better-known grunge artists. He’s still in fine form on The Light Side of the Apple, and the performance offers quite a bit of variety. Early on the singing has a rougher edge to it that channels more hard or stoner rock as it stands tall above the recording, but “Pretty Creepy” switches over to a combination of spoken word and harmonized singing that has more of an 80s rock feel. “And Then the Rain Comes Down” mixes things up yet again with much lighter, airier singing that showcases just how far Minier can push his range. Considering that it looks like Minier hasn’t recorded anything where he sings since Applehead’s debut, his performance is impressive and it’s clear he’s only gotten better over time.
The closing suite is a bit too long and does make the pacing drag, but there’s still a lot to like about what Greg Minier has done with his return to the Applehead name. It’s easy to like the way that Minier hops around the decades of rock and heavy metal but keeps things cohesive, and with some strong riffs and vocal work to back it up this album does have plenty of stand out moments. We’ll have to see whether Applehead continues on from here or if Minier has anything else planned, but hopefully it won’t take nearly as long to find out. The Light Side of the Apple is available from Roxx Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg