Dayton and Cincinnati (really southwest Ohio in general) has seen a decent amount of rock acts finding fame beyond their home state, especially since the turn of the century. Mick Blankenship is one such Ohio artist who seems to fit in that mold. Yet, despite putting the work in for much of that time period, bad break after bad break has kept him from really breaking out of that Buckeye bubble. His time spent fronting a Stone Temple Pilots tribute band has seemed to get him on the right trajectory though; since then, Blankenship has been steadily gaining steam in the region. He released a few original singles along with a Queensrÿche cover over the course of the last year or so, all in advance of his 10-track full-length debut, Crown of Apathy, which he unveiled at the end of February.
Lyrically, Blankenship tackles all kinds of tough issues on Crown of Apathy, many of which reflect his own life struggles. This is certainly apparent when listening to the words from each song, but it can even be noticed simply by glancing through the tracklist – with titles like “Flashback Crash,” “Abandoned,” “Love2hate,” and “Worthless Me,” among others. Vocally, his varied delivery is not unlike many of his hard rock peers today, though his singing style has more of a throwback sound, heavily influenced by both the big metal bands of the 1980s and the grunge of the ‘90s. In this way, Blankenship’s singing can feel out of place at times, particularly with the music underneath it. This has grown on me with each successive listen, but it still strikes me as a little bit “off.”
Instrumentally, Crown of Apathy is a solid rock record that infuses electronics in an almost-industrial manner at points. Be it subtle, like with many of the cuts on the album, including “Eye for an Eye,” or more outright, such as the breakdown on “Flashback Crash” and the monstrosity of an album closer in “Worthless Me,” the production quality is top-notch throughout. Throw in some stellar guitarwork, including that of the title track and other cuts like “Eye for an Eye” and “Love2hate,” driving basslines courtesy of Disturbed’s John Moyer, and Crown of Apathy can hold its own with many of the rock releases from the past year.
Much of my enjoyment of this album comes from its instrumentation, which at its best moments complements Blankenship’s powerful voice rather than clashing with it. Highlights such as “Abandoned,” and “Worthless Me,” and the title track are prime examples of these elements working together, and while such moments are more seldom than frequent, that doesn’t take away from too much of the album’s merit. Crown of Apathy is still worth a listen, if nothing else, for the driving rock and heartfelt lyrics that go along with it.