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Stardog Champion - Exhale

RATING: 8.5/10


Stardog Champion  is new band composed of  Aaron Fink (guitar) and Mark James (bass) of Breaking Benjamin/Lifer, Nick Coyle (vocals) of Lifer/Drama Club, & Josh Karis (drums) of Leroy Justice. Their new EP Exhale was produced by Grammy-nominee Neal Avron (Linkin Park, Everclear, Switchfoot).
You might call it a Lifer resurrection 12 years later with a new sound, but whatever name you give it I’m sure it’s going to kick ass. I was a big Lifer fan back in 2001 and if you haven’t heard, check out Lifer’s self-titled album on Spotify here.
Once Lifer split, singer Nick Coyle refused to let that slow him down in pursuing his musical dreams. While Aaron and Mark went to Breaking Benjamin, Nick took a different musical path. Coyle went on to form a band called myDownfall around 2002 – 2004 and released one album in 2003 (available on iTunes). After myDownfall split, Nick formed a new band called The Drama Club from 2005 – 2011 and released 4 EPs and a Greatest Hits. Beyond The Drama Club Nick released his own solo record The Twilight Symphony in 2012 (iTunes), and now that brings us back full circle to Stardog Champion. You can say he’s pretty damn dedicated to music.


The album opens with some ever-pleasant feedback and overdriven-bass goodness of, “Aphrodite.” The song highlights Nick Coyle’s falsetto and the precision that the band has re-captured after all these years apart. The song speaks of heartache and love’s painful sting. On the outro, the lyrics speak, “Take back your love/ I don’t need it/ But I can’t leave it.” A great opener for this solid, strong EP.
“Nothing To Lose,” kicks it up a notch with a stellar performance all around, a song that has a bit of a Foo Fighters feel to it. (It really reminds me of a song from a 1999 band Loudmouth, but I’ll be surprised if anyone gets that reference) Moving along…
…Which brings to the star of the album, “When We Fall.” This is just a great song, period. The opening riff sucks you in, the halftime feel of the chorus keep you locked, and the wailing of Mr. Fink on guitar put all the pieces together in perfect combination. The harmonies on the chorus add a polished feel, and the bridge captures Nick’s fury when he yells, “Rising Up!/ Up from the ashes,” and the final, “When we fall!.” Check out the official video:

The album goes on to, “House Of Cards,” which speaks to those who live in denial and deceit; “I’m bringing down your house of cards/ And it won’t take much/ Cause when push comes to shove/ It all falls apart.”
“The Switch,” slows things down a bit with some acoustic guitar play in the chorus/bridge blended with a nice distorted guitar solo. This song showcases a versatile vocal line where Nick shines throughout. It’s a great ending to this re-birth of a band and leaves me craving more.
This EP is the apex of what these musicians are about. Kudos to the band and it’s great to see you all re-united and playing together again, only good things could come of it. Thank you!





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