Transcending from the mediocrity of their humble beginnings, Kelen Heller (KH) rises up from the ashes of obscurity to bring their long awaited EP, Limited Edition (LTD). The upstate supergroup worked diligently with Shinedown producer Rick Beato, to compile and polish their most commercial offering to date. It’s obvious from one listen of this EP, that Beato brought the Shinedown touch to this recording, slightly altering the established trademark KH sound. For those that have had the pleasure of seeing Kelen Heller live, this recording is a bit of a departure from the stage experience, in that it carries a crispness that is questionable if you’re looking for a take home version of their live performance. As a recording, the effect is great overall-clean, clear, bright and musically primed for wide spread distribution. In short, this EP is one more way in which the guys of Kelen Heller are hammering their path to more mainstream exposure. Increased radio-friendliness is many musicians’ highest aspiration, and Kelen Heller has gotten that much closer to achieving that dream.
LTD is an invigorating journey for the listener, covering topics of tension, love, redemption, hope, and salvation. Emotionally, vocalist Ricky Shuler takes you on an exploration of the soul on which you admit your faults, refuse to give up, confront your demons, accept your shortcomings, and ultimately understand that in the end, “Nothing Ever Breaks.” The track listing reads like chapters in a self-help book, but contains much more poignant resources. If the saying is true that “music soothes the savage beast,” then Kelen Heller is aiming to soothe the self-demonizing beast inside all of us. Providing not only uplifting lyrics, but also jumping rhythms, rolling drums, and shredding guitar solos, LTD is the kind of music to start your day with- catchy, inspiring, and resonating.
Considering the band’s last EP, which contained a much more hard edged, rough and heavy sound, LTD makes the listener question just what kind of transcendence has occurred to cause such a shift. One does not simply or easily transition from “Dump” to “So Deserving,” or from “Redefine” to “Never Lived” something happens, something changes. While still maintaining, the basics of where they began, it is evident from this EP that on the road to stardom Kelen Heller has been around the block and was willing to bleed out for the record. The single from LTD, “Never Lived,” carries the same guitar fury from (Efrum) Ferguson, similar bass drops from (Brandon) Moore that were delivered by previous bassist Eli Rhodes, familiar heartbeat as supplied by (Kevin) Wall, and of course, the recognizable rhythms of (Mark) Frey as found in the previous single “Redefine,” Shuler is the difference. Opting to go the airier, almost ethereal route vocally, Shuler croons in a way that opens the senses and invites the experience.
Songs like “Without the Pain” and “So Deserving” offer up bouncy, harmonious instrumentals with melodic, echoic vocals. It is in these tracks that the Beato/ Shinedown influence is most apparent, given the markedly similar touches in styling. These tracks also provide some of the clearest vocals on the EP, giving listeners a chance to fully grasp the intended impact of the lyrics and absorb the complete message without getting lost in the production. Regarding the production and quality of LTD, let’s quote Cameron Crowe’s 2000 homage to rock n’ roll, “Almost Famous,” “the guitar sound…is incendiary.” Frey and Ferguson electrify on “Burn It All,” tearing up the strings with a fury and veracity that is a rare find in a band both live and on record."Nothing Ever Breaks," the final song on the EP, also features fiery guitars, prominent toms and high hats, and some of the roughest vocals on the EP.
Now with a makeover, a music video, two recorded releases, and an industry recording credit on their resume, KH is making strides to quickly transcend the shackles of locality. Hungry, passionate, and ambitious the guys are networking, branding, and clawing like madmen at the yellow brick road to pave their way to musical Oz. Despite the occasionally over synthesized effects on the vocals and rhythm guitar, LTD represents the impressive evolution of a Greenville, S.C. powerhouse turned regional force, with determination and opportunity to blow up nationally. You can find LTD on iTunes and more about Kelen Heller is available on their Facebook page. Check them out, take the ride, enjoy the journey!