“Muthafucka, I’m back from the dead, I’m about to raise hell. Out of my coma, I’m ready to show you that season of my life is done.”
So taunts Kyle Nicolaides at the start of Are You Real?, the new Beware of Darkness album, and the frontman’s biggest and boldest statement yet. As saw-toothed, satin guitar riffs slice into crunching grooves, the new album serves as an urgent call to arms for not only the singer, but for the band’s sound as well. In an alternative lane that has lately been full of banjos and keyboards, this music ushers in a rebirth of a sound that is as refreshing as it is exciting, and goes much deeper than riffs. Nicolaides’s journey, since the release of his band’s debut album Orthodox in 2013, has come full circle. After trolling the depths and sludging through the bleak, Are You Real? is the story of how a rock star on the rise fought uncertainty and disillusionment to avoid flaming out. And, more importantly, how he has come through the other side revitalized and focused, and with the best songs of his young career.
Despite the highs that would come from Orthodox, including wildly popular shows, prominent synch placements, and critical favor, Nicolaides refers to his own personal psyche during that period of his career as significantly less than stellar. Lacking self-confidence in his ability to lead, soon anger, fear, and depression set in. Nicolaides was forced to look inside himself to try and rebuild what had been lost. He began to embrace challenges—to, as he says, and in the spirit of his band’s name, “be aware of darkness”—and through reading and meditation found a harmony that had previously been lacking not just in his music but in all corners of his life.
“After the first album, I didn’t think I was going to have a future in music at all, but ironically I realized the only power I really had to deal and cope with that was by writing more songs,” he says. “This new record started from dealing with that uncertainty. Then it m