‘The Ignited’ is Joshua Ketchmark’s third release of 2012, concluding a trilogy of EPs showcasing the Tennessee-based singer-songwriter’s many facets. Following the power pop-ish ‘The Bittersweet’ and the wonderful, alt-country infused ‘The Dreamers Disease’, ‘The Ignited’ offers four energetic alt-rock tunes and presents the louder elements of his sound.

The opening track ‘About To Break’ is also the edgiest, as it powers ahead with some serious staccato riffing.  The most alt-rock tune in Ketchmark’s EP trilogy, it firmly sets out his intentions, while his technical team of Davey Julson Riley and Jeremy Hatcher (best known for their work with Elvis Costello and Black Veil Brides, respectively) bring the song to life with a very crisp studio sound.  Ketchmark attacks his lyric with a suitably sneering (slightly drawled) performance, while the rest of his band goes all out.  There’s a rumbling bass which isn’t too high in the end mix (it really should have been pushed upfront); to make up for this, the drums attack in a fashion rarely heard on Ketchmark’s previous outings.  In all, it’s a bit trashy, but a fine way to kick things off.

A fine balance between rock edge and pop sensibilities makes ‘Fallen’ shine.  Ketchmark is in strong voice throughout, but it is only really with the chorus this one really grabs.  A simple hook line and some soft backing harmonies are on hand for a full radio-friendly sound.  Treading on Butch Walker’s coat-tails with its blend of pop/rock and alternative edge, you should be able to have a guess at how this sounds.  While you’ve heard it all before – and many times, no doubt – if tuneful, slightly alternative rock is your bag, this should greet your ears somewhat favourably.  Despite its predictable nature, ‘Fallen’ is ‘The Ignited’s recommended listen.

‘Hurt’ works on a little too much of a tried and tested formula, but if you can accept that there’s nothing new here, like ‘Fallen’, it’s got a pretty decent heart, even if it doesn’t always quite reach the stratospheres it’s aiming for.  Hook-wise its strong, but musically it is a mixed bag: the pounding drums and rhythm guitars are enjoyable enough, but the guitar solo isn’t much more than a rudimentary offering.  If Ketchmark had pulled out the stops on the lead guitar front, it could have, perhaps, been a match for ‘Fallen’, but as it is, it’s okay.

Finishing with a big emo-ish power ballad, ‘Without You’ is a mid-paced affair, where Ketchmark’s slightly filtered, slightly overwrought vocals lead the way.  Musically, a few chiming guitars are its high point, but those – combined with reasonable song writing – just aren’t enough to make this any feel any more than bog standard.  If Ketchmark were aiming for that alt-rock hit, there’s something missing here; maybe it’s a more instant chorus, maybe it’s a slightly bigger punch that’s needed…but it’s a case of “is that all?”

While it is obvious to see why Ketchmark has chosen to end his trilogy here – very much on a rock-fuelled, mostly upbeat note – it’s not necessary the sound of a musician going out with all guns blazing, especially in comparison to his previous EPs.  There are some very enjoyable moments throughout, but these four numbers are not always loaded with of the kind of fireworks they could have been.  These songs would’ve, perhaps, had a much greater appeal if he had chosen them to open the trilogy instead…but after ‘The Dreamers Disease’, ‘The Ignited’ sounds like a musician playing for safety.  That’s fine of course, but as a parting statement from a body of work slowly unfolding over the course of a year, this EP should have been more than that.

September 2012