I was talking with Ben Ruegg the other day and realised I couldn’t think how long we had known each other and was somewhat in shock when he told me it was just two months. The reason I was that surprised is that since we first met, I had seen his band Channeled three times in concert, and he and I often discuss music. This album was the debut, released in 2019, and has since been followed up with ‘I Heard Penelope Sing’ while he has already started work on the third. Although Channeled are now a band, with Ben providing vocals/guitar alongside Matt Garratt (guitar), Michelle Anderton (bass) and Branden Pritchard (drums), and are the only band I have ever come across which has three music teachers from different schools (with Branden being an ex-pupil), back at the beginning Channeled was just Ben. In fact, it was only when performing songs from this album with the assistance of backing tracks that he was convinced to put a band together, so at the time of recording it was just Ben providing everything.
Having seen the band play so much in a short period of time, it is not surprising that I recognise quite a few of the songs contained within. What was somewhat unexpected is that the songs on the album come across just as powerfully in a studio setting with a multi-instrumentalist as they do with a full band ripping through them onstage. When I reviewed the most recent album, I felt they were best described as power pop with heavy influences from Foo Fighters, The Strokes, and Dave Dobbyn and this is very much true of this one as well. There are lots of guitars, really layered, with a dynamic edge which really lifts the mood. Just take “When We’re Gone”, a song that always goes down well at gigs, as the guitars keep building and it becomes a massively over the top number with passion and power, Ben’s vocals fighting for dominance with the strident lead guitar while underneath everything is alternative and hard-hitting. “Deeper” is a real crowd favourite, hitting hard from the off, yet also having lots of breaks and different sections within it.
As with Arrays, one of Ben’s real strengths is the way he manages to make each song sound like the work of a full band, and while there is a continuity of style throughout the album, each song is also very different indeed and it becomes one anthem after another. There is a strong understanding of the need for dynamics, with plenty of light and shade and a real use of space within proceedings. This means that when he ramps it up there is impact as previously it has been quieter. His vocals are often quite clear, yet at others there is a definite edge as he builds emotion and angst. The last time I saw these guys play was when they easily won the semi-final of a local battle of the bands competition, and with two very strong albums behind them, I am sure they will only keep getting better. This is a melodic alternative rock album full of passion, which never for a second sounds as if it is the work of just one man. Having recently performed with the likes of local heavyweights Coridian, Channeled are a band to look out for, and for all those who don’t have the fortune to live in the wonderful world of Aotearoa then seek out the albums as they are quite special indeed.
Kev Rowland – 8/10