As a reviewer I get lots of “musical origin stories” from artists. But it’s rare that I read a personal history from an indie artist that could rival Mozart or Beethoven!
Colby Seth is the 30-year-old musician behind the name ColSeth who’s released a singles collection titled The Elusive More. He’s been playing music since he was four, and began writing songs on music paper at age five! Seth was also nearly deaf until eight, composing music in his brain or by laying his head down on the piano to feel the vibrations.
In high school Seth presented a live orchestral composition, along with playing bass in a three-piece indie rock band and sitting in with other artists. After a five year break from music, Seth discovered BandLab and became a solo artist. His first three albums were rap, eventually transitioning to indie and alternative rock under the ColSeth name. He calls his current style metalcore, but at each phase of his journey he’s amassed followers on YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud and other services. This particular Bandlab album is what he terms “a collection of my most refined rock songs. Indie, alternative rock, even metal.”
Playing the album through (and initially unaware that it was made up of singles) I was surprised that a classically trained musician could create such screaming, angry tracks. Seth’s songs tend to play out against a thick tapestry of overdriven, reverb-drenched guitars and synths. But it’s his vocals where his melodic gifts often shine. It’s easy to overlook his complex harmonies and interweaving melodies, especially since he often reverts to James Hetfield-like growling.
“Aimless” opens with guitar chords that are so overdriven, you can’t imagine they’d have any place else to go! There’s also a short blast of lead guitar leading into the song proper. Seth seems to have a good, slightly high-pitched singing voice, but it’s difficult to tell as he always has a second, processed vocal track following along. Overall this is a fairly traditional metal ballad, with wall-of-sound guitars and vocal lines that never quit. There’s some cool backward effects at the very end too!
The next track is “Contemptuous” which Seth rates as “not my best, not my worst.” Very similar to the first track, with Seth’s vocal histrionics expanding to what sounds like three levels of choral overdubs. This is the kind of track where it’s easy to miss Seth’s compositional skills as the sophisticated chord changes get lost in the fuzz. The fact that the vocal lines never seem to end and constantly dovetail within themselves is amazing to me.
“UnRaVeLiNg” is a remastered version of what Seth calls “my best song.” It continues the sound of the first two tracks, though this one has a few moments where the fuzzy smoke clears just for a moment. Introduced judiciously before, the pinched cookie monster-style vocals are now appearing more frequently. It’s a cool sound but I’m more partial to Seth’s gorgeous “straight” harmonies. There’s even a spoken word section and one final demonic scream toward the end.
For a collection of tracks, this set is playing so far like a planned-out album. “Before Dawn” is the perfect fourth track, taking a short breather for some quiet piano chords and intimate vocals, which weirdly remind me of classic songwriter Paul Williams. The synth follows the piano, making this more of a psychedelic track while the guitars take a break. You can really hear the melodic bass lines and the drums too. Almost synth pop and a high water mark!
For “Solemn Simulacrum” Seth proclaims: “This the one!” I think he tends to believe whatever song he’s writing about at the moment is one of his best, but this track for sure has the clearest and most straight-ahead vocals, with a dramatic, pleading chorus. And another backward ending! “You Can Meet My Book Stick” is called by Seth “a quick little bop, nothing crazy!” It’s certainly the fastest track with more of those prominent vocals, both the sweet ones and the screamers. Then we have the “post punk vibe” of “Writing On The Wall” featuring one of my favorite beats, what I call “one-two, one-one two.” I don’t know where Seth gets “post punk” as this feels more like techno pop to me, with its kaleidoscopic synths and now-classic interweaving vocals. A shorter track but very good.
“Catch Me If You Can” is termed by Seth to be “a classic” (if he does say so himself!). The songs have gotten slowly more commercial as the set has progressed, and this one gives me a definite Smashing Pumpkins vibe. It’s a clear favorite of mine and might really be a classic! “Armor of GOD” is advertised as “Ravamped! Remixed! Remastered! With an extended ending!” Though I can’t compare it to the original, this really is an exceptionally clean track with all the best ColSeth qualities in one compact package. “Loss of Life” ends the album with some beautiful piano tracks with very intimate vocals. Seth says he “put a lot of work into this one” but I’d say that must be true of all his songs, since this one shines in all the familiar ways. The drum fills are especially interesting, the vocals have that drifting overdubbed feel, and the synths pop and trill. Extremely trippy and hypnotic as the voices multiply and interweave.
Though this isn’t called a “Greatest Hits” album, it’s certainly got some of ColSeth’s best tracks and is a great introduction to this intriguing artist.