Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Abel Braves Fire To Make It Right

After several shakeups since their debut album Lesser Men in 2010, Poughkeepsie, New York-based alternative rock band Abel is releasing a heavier, darker and more pragmatic sophomore album. The 10-track indie album Make It Right is right on target, a superbly crafted collection of songs that deliver amazingly authentic vocals and wildly addictive music.

"I think we've always wanted to do something a little grittier and bluesier, but music has a natural progression," says front man Kevin Kneifel. "We weren't ready to make that leap on Lesser Men."

Make It Right is an album of life lessons.

As Kneifel calls it, Make It Right is not as complex as Lesser Men. What it delivers instead is an impassioned execution that only comes with surviving adversity. And while Kneifel is reluctant to speak on behalf of the band, he is unafraid to share what was on his mind during the dark period that led up to it.

"Abel did a lot of touring in 2010 and that was definitely a really stressful time in my life," says Kneifel. "I was really struggling to figure out what I wanted to do with myself and where I thought music and touring fit and in my life in general. To top it off, tensions were really high between Alex [David] and myself on tour that year, and we even spent some time not talking to each other."

Like many singer/songwriters and musicians, Kneifel found himself at a crossroads — feeling like he had to commit to the band or the four-year relationship with his girlfriend. The choice wasn't so easy to make because he doubted his ability to do either. It didn't help watching several outside relationships he admired break down and fall apart. The ones who suffered the most, he said, were the children.

"These were the things that were on my mind at the time," he said. "So these were the stories I brought into writing the lyrics for Make It Right."

It can immediately be heard on the first track released by Abel in advance of the album. Fire Walk With Me is a soaring rocker, opening with a smoldering chorus that blisters against self-doubt and self-righteous hypocrisy.

"It's also about running away from your problems," says Kneifel. "It's easier than owning up to the things you've done and the promises you've made."

Several songs on Make It Right carry a similar theme, which is where Make It Right has the most bite. I'll Be Waiting is about the relationship he considered the model of a stable, loving marriage before the cracks began to surface and the couple split apart. Even so, Kneifel maintains some semblance of hope in the song. He says sometimes people need space from each other to work out personal issues. It would be nice to know that they have someone to come home to.

Fine Lines also hits close to home, with Kneifel writing about his long-time friendship with Alex David (bass). During the 2010 tour when tensions peaked, insincere apologies were bantered about just to keep things moving forward. They didn't recognize it until they got back, but pride and putting success before friendship almost caused a near irreparable rift.

They had been there before. These were the same pressures felt when Kneifel and David had played in another band together. They were all suffering from tour burnout when their bass player quit The Comeback Tour. While the shakeup helped them discover Dan Bishop, who later joined Abel, the momentum had collapsed.

When they did reunite, David had picked up bass and Kneifel invited John Rell III to play drums. It clicked well enough for Dreamt Music to produce their debut EP and Come&Live to back their Kickstarter-funded debut album. This time around, Come&Live is supporting the album, but Make It Right was funded exclusively by Abel fans through Kickstarter.

Along with their savings, the band retreated to the Catskill Mountains and then went on to record with producer Matt Malpass (Manchester Orchestra) in Atlanta. Come Home, which is a standout ballad, was one of four songs they finished writing there. It's a nice change of pace in that it was written for Kneifel's girlfriend for their wedding day. The direct contrast to the ballad, An Ultimatum, is based on her telling him to man up or leave.

Make It Right By Abel Hits 6.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

This is the kind of album that can propel a band forward. There is a synergy in the collaborative writing process along with influences from Malpass throughout. More than that, it's a landmark album for the band and, in particular, Kneifel. He never had to choose his wife or the band. He only needed faith.

Make It Right is available on iTunes. You can also find Make It Right on Amazon or visit Bandcamp, where you can also listen to Daughter. The band has a heavy set of shows planned at the end of September in support of the album, kicking off in Danbury, Connecticut.
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