Philly’s Sheer Mag combine big riffs with family loss, politics, work chaos on ‘A Distant Call’

Photo by Marie Lin

It’s always weird when you hear a song in a commercial that totally isn’t representative of the product being moved nor the mood they’re trying to strike in the piece. That’s either because the makers didn’t understand the song or they didn’t give a shit and figure you won’t either. But it’s one of the ways people misunderstand music’s intent despite how it sounds on the surface.

If you dig into Philly rockers Sheer Mag’s new record “A Distant Call” and don’t immerse yourself in the lyrics and story that connects these 10 songs, you might get the wrong idea. With its killer riffs, rock n roll attitude, and Tina Halladay’s impossibly infectious singing, this record might sound like a great album in which to toss back beers and get sunburnt this summer, or at least what’s left of it. Not that you can’t do that, but you’d be missing a pretty deep, painful tale that’s being told here, one based on a period in Halladay’s life that might help connect the band with listeners going through similar struggles. Through her singing, she tells a story about a women who lost her job and also is dealing with the death of her father, with whom she’s had a difficult relationship. The record also touches on modern politics that feel a lot like old politics as well as workers standing up for their rights. It’s also, all of this aside, a punchy, ultra-catchy album that’ll definitely catch you off guard as the band—Halladay is joined by guitarist/lyricist Matt Palmer, guitarist Kyle Seely, bassist Hart Seely—pays homage to the arena rock era, as these songs are huge and will overwhelm you.

“Steel Sharpens Steel” opens the record with a wild howl from Halladay and the riffs getting going, with a killer bridge with her calling, “It’s a chain reaction when you turn the other cheek, remember if you’re looking for action, and you’re feeling dull and weak.” The simple chorus is easy to call back and is a defiant call that the hard times make you tougher. “Blood From a Stone” has a great riff and is a little breezier, as Halladay insists, “But I won’t cry, cuz I should have known, that to get some comfort from your aching heart, is blood from a stone.” A cool solo rips out, which is par for the course on this record, and Halladay blasts back about the struggles of living check to check before the track rings out. “Unfound Manifest” has a steely guitar line driving through before a twin assault is launched. “Sinking in dark waters, fighting back against the tide, can’t hold on much longer when the salt begins to rise,” Halladay notes, while the strong chorus gets the blood going, and the track comes to a fiery end. “Silver Line” changes things up as it has a shimmery psychedelic feel, making it easily stick out in a good way. “I’m making it day by day,” Halladay insists while a warm solo sinks in, and the track comes to a dreamy finish. “Hardly to Blame” has a nighttime vibe and a bruising chorus, as the guitars light up in neon. “I tried to love you, I tried to tell you,” Halladay sings at the end of the chorus, while the song itself fades.

“Cold Sword” has riffs powering through, though the song comes with tragedy and sadness, as Halladay sings, “Today I got the news that his heart gave out, I know I’ll never have another, but what father darkens his own house?” Her voice is a highlight of this song, which is no surprise, as amid hardship, she manages to stand her ground despite an unsteady future. “Chopping Block” has guitars that remind of Priest’s synth-based days in the 1980s, as the singing pushes hard, the chorus crunches, and the call of, “The final hour strikes the clock, they need to pay, they owe us our back wage,” drives everything home. “The Right Stuff” has Halladay tackling body image and her defiance when adhering to what society determines is beauty, which she says right here in the song. Along the way, the band creates a psyche vibe, as she strikes back with, “If you’re worried about my health, shut your mouth and keep it to yourself,” as a killer solo strikes the final nails. “The Killer” is an awesome cut that delves back into politics continuing in a ruinous cycle that only serves to beat us down. “He’s got you right between the eyes,” Halladay warns, as the band puts together a super infectious chorus that sounds cheery but is anything but. The record ends with “Keen on Running” that has the bass slinking with the drums, the guitars mangling, and Halladay’s singing sounding softer in spots, where she pokes, “On our backs, they want to see us fall.” The band drums up a huge classic rock-style finish that ends the record in a barrage of fireworks both musically and emotionally.

Sheer Mag’s power and exuberance are impossible to ignore and a super refreshing breath of fresh air in our current musical climate that very often forgets to have fun. At the same time, “A Distant Call” has sobering subject matter that can cut right to the bone, especially for those who have experienced these same struggles. This is a hell of a statement, a really strong record, and the further push to the future for one of this era’s most energetic rock bands.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.