Burn Blue Sky

Cleveland Scene

Akron hard rockers Burn Blue Sky, who play a free show at the Stone Tavern in Kent on Friday, aren’t new to the whole “being in a band” thing. They’ve been doing it for over 15 years, and while day jobs and other obligations may get in the way of pursuing music full-time, they still enjoy creating their aggressive blend of rock and metal as much as they did when they started out.

“We’ve known each other for a long, long time,” drummer Beau McGranahan says. “It’s always been fun, and I think that’s kinda what we want to keep our focus on. Being able to enjoy it, and to get satisfaction out of that artistic process.” 

That attitude shines through on Burn Blue Sky’s latest work, the seven-track EP Godzimoth. The Stone Tavern performance later this month will serve as its CD release show. The band’s wide range of sonic influences each get their individual share of the spotlight on the EP — from metal bands like Pantera and Crowbar to softer, Southern fried rock like the Black Crowes.

“We’re a heavy rock band and we always have been, with elements of heavy metal. That’s kind of where our roots are,” McGranahan says. “But I think on this one we wanted to challenge the listener.” 

To say that listeners will be challenged may be a bit of an understatement, as certain tracks on Godzimoth sound like they could’ve been written by different bands altogether. 

Opener “Bar Ballz” comes off a hard rock ripper in the purest sense of the term, with punishing power chords hitting the audience in the face right from the get-go. The deeper cut, “Black Paw,” brings acoustic guitar and an almost folk-y vocal style to the foreground.

The vocals on the EP are a point of particular interest for longtime Burn Blue Sky listeners. Godzimoth is the first record to feature new singer Jeff Fahl, the band’s third different vocalist in three total releases. According to McGranahan, Fahl has been a friend of the band since it began; he brings a more diverse style and vision to their music. 

Also adding to the fresh, unconventional feel of the new record was the way the band decided to write and record it.

“What we decided to do is book studio time with just basic fragments of songs,” McGranahan says. “We didn’t have anything written wholly at all. We went into the studio and had the parts, and pretty much just wrote and arranged it right there and recorded it on the spot.” 

The experiment paid off in the end, and the five-piece emerged from the studio with what itfelt was its most enjoyable effort to date. In fact, McGranahan says it was the most fun they’ve ever had making a record.

“It was just something new,” he says, “and actually, the songs were new to us once we were finished with it. That was really refreshing.”

Lovers of hard rock, metal, and even more acoustic-oriented sounds are sure to find themselves refreshed by Godzimoth’s diversity as well. 


Album Review - Burn Blue Sky: Celebrate the Decline

Somewhere in the middle of America’s rust belt, an area of our great country that has been stranded in its own modern day depression for over thirty years, there are five guys doing their damndest to drown out the dwindling population’s collective frustration armed with nothing but noise. Kent, Ohio’s Burn Blue Sky have been kicking around this dusty landscape for ten years and on their latest release, the oh so appropriately titled Celebrate the Decline, that experience shows. Laying down eight tracks of blues inflected, heavy ass rock n roll, vocalist Ben Bivens, guitarists Jason Stone and Mike Carlton and the brothers McGranahan (Gabe on bass, Beau on drums) have created a soundtrack to blue collar America’s unified feeling of dissatisfaction.

The album opens with a healthy dose of guitar driven feedback accompanied by a nice bass line that ultimately collapses into a frenetic guitar solo before Bivens unleashes a vocal flurry that volleys back and forth between a low end clean style and a throat shredding screech. The song is “Neo Cortez” and let me tell you, it is one hell of an introduction to Burn Blue Sky. In fact, if you don’t like it…and I can almost guarantee that will NOT be the case, then I suggest you walk away now, because this song goes a long way towards defining the band’s sound. When the dust settles on the blistering opening track, that same feedback returns, only this time we hear a woman’s fading voice warning us…“You know that ringing in your ears…that beeeep…that’s the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song…once it’s gone, you’ll never hear that frequency again…enjoy it while it lasts”.

So with such a frightening health advisory, you’d think I’d heed the warning and adjust that volume knob slightly to the left, but when the band launches into track number two, “All Fade Away”, I find myself turning it in the opposite direction as Bivens pleads in his throaty rasp, “when I die I wonder…will you remember my name”. The album’s third track “The City Streets” takes a page from Clutch’s From Beale Street to Oblivion with its bluesy swagger, a trend that continues right on into “Cigarettes & Friends Long Dead”…I mean c’mon, can you hear that organ lurking in the background? And it’s this song that begins to define Burn Blue Sky’s influences and their style becomes more apparent. These guys sound like the love child of 90’s era alt-metal bands like Life of Agony and Southern tinged stoner rock, ala Sixty Watt Shaman.

The next song “Heathen” drives this point home with its chunky breakdown and Life of Agony-esque guitar work. However, the styles incorporated in Celebrate the Declinedon’t stop there as I can hear some Pantera sprinkled throughout the album and (the band will probably hate this) there seems to even be a Godsmack-ish, nu-metal component hiding just under the surface. But you know what? It works and I fucking dig it! I mean shit man; “Burning Blue” sounds like it could have been an outtake from a Spineshank album with its sensitive guy/angry guy vocals and down-tuned, chugga-chugga guitar riffs. But that’s the thing about Burn Blue Sky…they aren’t afraid to combine powerful, emotive vocals with bluesy, Southern hard rock and sledgehammer riffs. The formula just flat out works…and frankly, it’s refreshing.

Celebrate the Decline hits the home stretch with “(Life in) Quarantine”, an epic number that starts off subtly but transforms into a high tempo, yet bitter lament that finds Bivens again echoing the frustrations of his neighbors, as he sings “I need a way out…from here”. The final bullet in this gun is the title track, a song that finds Burn Blue Sky mining Alice in Chains territory as we’re left with what could certainly be the band’s signature line…”the blue sky is burning red”.

This is a very cohesive album, the songs are memorable and because there are only eight of them, there are no throwaways on Celebrate the Decline. I’d hesitate to call it stoner rock, but some of the elements are definitely there. It’s just that those elements only make up one piece of the puzzle that is Burn Blue Sky. Bottom line…this is good, heavy rock n roll and it deserves to be heard.


Burn Blue Sky is a hard working rock band from Akron Ohio area, and Celebrate the Decline is their second release. BBS counts Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains, and Pantera, among others, as their influences, which probably accounts for their heavy and quite eclectic sound. For instance, the opener Neo Cortez is an indeterminate mix of melodic rock, stylish guitar work, hardcore near death vocals over a heavy foundation. It's as curious as it is divergent. But it certainly does not define the band or the rest of this album.

All Fade Away begins with a catchy melodic feel, but then digresses into something nearing stoner rock. And that stoner vibe continues on The City Streets, Cigarettes & Friends Long Dead, and Heathen: the music heavy and dark with only a few lapses of lively brightness. In Heathen it comes the soaring guitar solo. The last few songs continue this heavy rock theme, but with a more modern, post-grunge, rock accessibility. Yet, even with the heavy motif, Burn Blue Sky has several strong characteristics which challenges its peers: intriguing song arrangements, interesting guitar work, and a nearly old school sense of melody. These important elements alone make Celebrate the Decline an entertaining experience. Recommended.