Denali The Instinct

It might be easy for most to have a negative predisposition about Denali as just the indie version of Evanescence (three guys with a female lead, operatic vocals and "why must I live?”/NIN-influenced lyrics) and to lazily label them as such would do them a large injustice. Though this isn’t an album of troubled genius by any stretch of the imagination, their mixture of trip-hop atmospherics à la Portishead or Lamb and, for the most part, a traditional backing (to their credit, when they keep it pared to just the essentials and keep the predictable samples out of view, they’re far more effective) works well, even despite the often distracting lyrics, ranging from "no one feels like I do” to "innocence drifts away passing through pains.” Lead singer and songwriter Maura Davis, whose voice lands somewhere between Beth Gibbons and, yes, Amy Lee, is the heart of the group and really this would be a run-of-the-mill record without her timbre and range, affording her the ability to take an otherwise dull three-chord progression and wring at least a single haunting melody from it. Her vocal work on highlights "Surface” and "The Instinct” are good enough to look past the pedestrian lyrics and once they’re out of the way, The Instinct becomes an engaging listen. (Jade Tree)