Rustbelt Rock Review
By: Z.M. Delgado
Volume #123: Bittersweet Revenge, Inducing Panic, Southbound Beretta & Psycho Plantation
February 10th, 2024
The Asylum at Masonic Temple, 3615 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115
" And at long last, the men of the hour were heading for the limelight. Bittersweet Revenge was finally taking the stage. I last checked out this band back in RbRR #106, when they opened up at the Mushroomhead Halloween extravaganza. They impressed me then, but in an opening role we got a limited view of what the band has to offer. This time, as the headliner, we would get a much better look at BSR. For those of you who are unaware, Bittersweet Revenge is a five man Hard Rock band forged from Vocals, two Guitars, Bass and Drums. (It is also probably worth noting that they were the recipients of the Cleveland Music Awards Best Hard Rock Artist for 2023.) They opened up Hard Rockin’ and with absolutely phenomenal stage presence. The Vocals are clean, with some excellent, gritty screams for emphasis. The crowd was feeling it, right from the get go. Dancing, headbanging and singing along at the tops of their voices; the BSR faithful were in full swing. In absolute party mode they drank and moved to the music as Bittersweet Revenge did their best to cultivate that vibe. Three songs into the set they played my favorite cut from their “Turmoil” EP: “Control.” This song showed their lead Guitarist stepping to the forefront of the stage, shirtless, and soloing. Here I also noted the top notch performance by the Bass player, who is always a blur of activity. He dances and spins on stage while laying down the fattest of fat tones on the low end. Five songs deep into the set they performed a portion of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You.” It is a delightful little teaser that always leaves me itching for more.
Their seventh song was a brand new number titled “Pablo.” This one had a very hard edged opening and was slow and brooding at times. The chorus was good and heavy and it had a big finish. The crowd and myself included really enjoyed it, and it was cool to be there for the debut. Next up they played another one that I love, in which the singer screams defiantly, “I’ll never be sober again!” It’s a banger of a track. For their 9th song, the Last One, the crowd went bananas. All around me people danced and sang. Head banging and rocking out, the crowd was enthralled. I noticed a lot of people filming the set and a number of folks “going live” to share the moment with their social media chums. The song had a big, powerful finish which showed the band reaching new heights as far as their stage presence was concerned. With a huge cheer, Bittersweet Revenge left the stage, only to return a few minutes later to give us… One More Song! No surprise, but a welcome event, BSR reemerged. They passed a bottle of rum around, before addressing the crowd and laying out one final jam. The fans went nutzo and rightly so. The final song was every bit as Rockin’ and raucous as the preceding set had been. Together we danced our way through this final number and then Bittersweet Revenge said goodnight. The fans roared… I tell you they absolutely howled like mad beasts beneath a full moon. I have to say that BSR has one of the most loyal and rowdiest fan bases I have seen. But considering the quality of their music, that is not surprise. Bittersweet Revenge had played an outstanding set and left all who stood watching in awe of their power and passion. They Rocked hard, with authority and passion. Laying it all out there, heart and soul. Memorable performances like these are why we come out to the show in the first place. Bands like Bittersweet Revenge leave ringing in our ears and echos in our very souls.
With the show at a close, we said our good byes and made our way outside to burn a finally doob. Once done we parted ways and headed to our vehicles. I hopped in the ride and turned it east. It had been one hell of a night. Bros, bud and bands makes for a pretty fun little Saturday to be sure. Of course the crux of the thing is the music; which had been stellar. Psycho Plantation opened things up right with a lot of energy. Southbound Beretta was very impressive, both in skill as well as in performance. Inducing Panic was wild. From one song to the next, you never know what you were going to get. And finally Bittersweet Revenge was fantastic. They are a top tier band playing at peak skill. You can see that they are having nearly as much fun as the fans on the floor and the vibe comes across at the show. The end result is a concert that is nothing short of a celebration. That in and of itself cannot be overlooked. After all, first and foremost, Rock N’ Roll is supposed to be a good time. On that note, I believe I will bring this edition to a close. Keep chasing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Heaviness. And as always, Thank you for reading!
Until next time, Rock on, Rustbelt,
Rustbelt Rock Review
By Jeff Niesel on Tue, Jan 23, 2024 at 9:41 am
A few years ago, after releasing a full-length, the guys in the local hard rock act Bittersweet Revenge decided to focus on EPs. They conceived a four-EP cycle that the group has now nearly completed.
“Full-length projects for smaller bands that are unsigned are hard to do,” says drummer DJ Smith in a recent conference call with guitarist Tommy Farkas. Bittersweet Revenge performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, at TempleLive at Cleveland Masonic along with Inducing Panic, Southbound Beretta, Psycho Plantation, regional bands it selected specifically for the gig. “People like faster releases. It’s all about doing singles and EPs, and people want steady content. That’s where the idea came from. I was brainstorming and thought this would be four separate merchandising releases. It’s a good idea all around.”
The band began back in 2016 when Smith and Marc Kourcklas, the group’s original singer and guitarist, began working together.
“We were in Level 5 in the Steelyard and found bassist Angel Vasquez and his best friend, guitarist Jake Jekyll,” says Smith.
The band’s first LP followed in 2017.
"Don DeBiase helped us record our debut, and he was great,” says Smith. “He does work with Mushroomhead and Black Veil Brides. We had mutual friends. I helped him and his girlfriend move, and he helped us cut a few songs in exchange. Next thing you know, it turned into a whole album. That was cool working with him on that.”
Replacing Kourcklas, who tragically passed away, wasn't easy, but guitarist Tommy Farkas and vocalist Mike Patton became the obvious choice.
"Mike Patton brings a dynamic and distinct singing style along with powerful lyrics," says Farkas.
One highlight in the band's career came this past summer when the group performed at Inkcarceration, the annual metal festival held in Mansfield.
“The sound on that stage was amazing,” says Farkas when asked about the experience. “They had it set up really well. We were playing in the shadow of Shawshank Prison, and the whole vibe of it was pretty spectacular. We played with Highly Suspect, and Megadeth played that weekend. To have your name on that bill is pretty damn cool.”
The new lineup delivered the first EP, A Love Once Lost, in 2021. Forgotten Tales and Turmoil followed. Heartache, the final EP in the series, is currently in the works. Each EP has five tracks.
A song such as “Rabbit Hole” displays the band’s affinity for accessible hard rock. Patton sings more than he screams, and the complex guitar riffs sound like something you might hear in a Helmet tune.
“We’re aiming at the modern rock/alternative stuff a little bit like Royal Blood and Highly Suspect,” says Smith when asked about the band's influences. “We find ourselves catching a lot of inspiration from guys like that. We play with a lot of metal bands locally, but there’s not a huge rock scene. I’m working on that and trying to get together the rock bands that are here and going to shows and trying to build the scene. People want to hear that stuff, but it’s just not a thing here. That’s one of my goals. Cleveland is the rock ’n’ roll city, after all.”
"When Cleveland’s Best Rock Band, Bittersweet Revenge reaches out, you do a little happy dance and reach right back! I’m thrilled to review their new EP “Turmoil”.
Speaking of Cleveland’s Best Rock band, the band commented, “The Cleveland Music Awards was an unforgettable experience. We were all so shocked and excited that we won because we were up against some really talented Cleveland rock bands. And of course we have our amazing friends and fans to thank for voting for us.”
My comment is that that it’s no surprise these guys would win. Bittersweet Revenge is how “Rock N’Roll” is spelled. Not only do they put out great songs, and kickass good times at their shows, they are the Ride or Die of Rockers.
The latest from our best rock band in the land is “Turmoil”. This 5 song EP is everything that you would expect and more.
“Pushing Daisies” opens up with a buzzy intro that lets you know right away that you’re listening to Bittersweet Revenge. The layered overdubs add a tease of ear candy, while the vocals come in SWEET. This is a bluesy tinged song, interlaced with a heavy backwoods style rock. Only the most legendary musicians can pull off this type of vibe. The music mesmerizes and leaves you hanging onto every note, with a bombastic solo that’s the cherry on top.
Next up is “Rabbit Hole” that draws you down into a deliciously dirty groove. This song has a swampy, bayou vibe that is awesomely filthy. The mix is innovative on genius levels, the way it plays with highlighting and then sinking the vocals, putting the instruments on top, and then back into the mix – very cool! The drums are tuned in perfectly and the guitars know just when to buzz and when to overdrive. The rhapsodic solo will definitely put a smile on even the most critical rocker’s ears.
The third track, “Tell Me Something Good” starts off with smooth, melancholy vocals that intro into a new mix. We’ve left the bayou now we’re walking down an abandoned city street, either very early in the morning or very late at night – depending on how you look at it. I literally had shivers going down my spine. Call me jaded, but it takes a lot to leave me speechless and this one is THAT GOOD. It is a testament to the musicianship of these guys to keep the soul of their sound, while breaking out into new territories at the same time. Bravo!
Mikey is proving himself to be a strong and compelling vocalist to lay over, under, and throughout the magic that only Bittersweet Revenge knows how to produce. “Control” highlights those vocals. This is a song you listen to when you’re fed up and ready to break the world open and make the type of changes that brings a whole new level of epic. I dare anyone to make it through the guitars on this one without making a seriously nasty face. (For those of you who know who my husband is, you know that’s a strong statement) Seriously, I triple dog dare you!
If a band has the brass ones to cover the greats, such as Billie Holiday, they better BRING IT and Bittersweet Revenge does just that with “Gloomy Sunday”. They brought this song up to the times yet kept the haunting dynamics and jazzy roots. I think this might be the song I want playing every time I enter and then exit a room.
If you haven’t wrapped your ears around “Turmoil” yet, you are going to kick yourself for what you’ve been missing. Go Get It, and let me know if you give it five stars too.
Tracy Murrow - Rocklines Magazine - 11/5/2023
"After another introduction from Big Bri, we got our headlining performers, Bittersweet Revenge. This is a five piece Hard Rock act made up of two Guitars, Bass, Drums and a Vocalist. They started out with a song entitled “11” which brought with it heavily distorted guitars, clean Vocals and a lot of energy. The whole band had great stage presence stomping and headbanging as they played. The Vocals quickly drifted towards snarls and screams as the song progressed, producing a sound that was a lot heavier than I’d expected. They have a vibe with a touch of blues and a twinge of Southern Metal. (I found a passing musical resemblance to the bands Down, as well as Crobot.) This sound continued throughout the songs “12” and “Hair of the Dog.” When they got to “Borrowed Time” the Rhythm Guitarist left the stage, beer in hand, and cheers’ed everyone in the room holding a drink. Next the Lead Guitarist followed suit and played a killer solo on the floor amongst the fans. “Thrill,” which was sort of a ballad, still turned out pretty heavy, the Vox starting clean and then growing into screams. Another scorcher of a solo popped up here, to the delight of all in attendance. On “14” they delivered an up tempo Rockin’ beat. Here I noted that the “Bass player is really getting down.” The crowd danced and cheered, singing along. There was a group of diehard fans congregated to one side of the stage that absolutely lost their shit around this point.
“Trump Face” brought some serious groove and my notes read “Fucking great song.” On the guitar solo here, the guitarist moved to the front of the stage and shredded with his face turned up toward the ceiling, eyes shut tight. They closed out with “Black Out” which had a fat bass sound. They really threw down for this one and the fans went ape shit in response. Fists were pumping and heads were banging. People dancing and singing along could be seen from wall to wall, stage to soundboard. Let me put it to you short and sweet: Bittersweet Revenge Rocks! What they served up Saturday night was outstanding. Hard and passionate, they brought absolute fire to the Maple Grove stage. It is never an easy task to have to follow a band of Olathia’s intensity, but I have to say Bittersweet Revenge lived up to the job. They played with such energy and ingrained heaviness that they had me banging my head. Yet simultaneously they deliver a very fun and danceable sound. If you’re looking for some serious Hard Rock with impressive vocals and unquestionable chops on the guitar then check out Bittersweet Revenge today. They hope to release a new EP in August, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
And just like that the evening was at an end. Brian gave some closing remarks and thanked everyone for coming. In my opinion the inaugural Level Up Cleveland concert had been a resounding success. Without a doubt this is one of the most fun shows I have covered in a while. With a party atmosphere, good friends and incredible talent, it will surely be a night to remember. Craig Martini kicked things off in a very cool way. His funk based, Bass driven, one man band was a really great way to open up the show. Olathia upped the intensity dramatically and gave us one hell of a set. With their unparalleled talent they once again reminded me of why they are among the best in our scene. And lastly, Bittersweet Revenge brought down the house with their tremendous energy. Like machines of perpetual motion their power cells never seemed to slacken. Add that to their big vocal presence and spectacular guitar work and you’ve got yourself a must see performer. You wrap that all up together and it's a recipe for one great night of music. I left the Maple Grove and drove home, tired but satisfied. After nearly six hours in the club, I was spent. I hit the sack with a slight ringing in my ears and dreams of guitar solos dancing in my head... and that's how it should be. I would like to thank my friends at Level Up Cleveland and the Maple Grove Tavern for putting on this awesome event and for getting me involved. As always, thanks for reading.
Until next time, Rock on, Rustbelt!"
Until next time, Rock on, Rustbelt!
Rustbelt Rock Review
Sign up to hear from us about new releases and events!