Under-rated. Not reach their peak. Deserve more than they got.
Whatever you want to call it there are plenty of bands that never reach the full recognition that they should have achieved. Members such as Angus Young of AC/DC, Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen, the song writing genius Jim Steinman are completely underrated in the musical community, being out shadowed by the likes of Slash, Hendrix and Meat Loaf. However, people seem to forget that although there are these amongst the legends and prima donnas, there’s equally (if not more) among the smaller, “indie” (I strongly dislike that word but my thesaurus is limited I’m afraid) bands. Too many to name. But there’s one band I want to talk to you about in particular: Madina Lake.
Back in the autumn months Rebel Yell dedicated its October edition to “Madina Diary” in which I recalled one of the most intense yet intimate gigs I have been to in my eighteen years. Recently Madina Lake have been playing on a continuous loop through my iPod, stereo and Spotify; my love for them has maintained its strength and importance over the passed nine years; yet my curiosity was first sparked when hearing “Middle of Nowhere” by The Blank Theory back in 2002 (the Leone twins previous band before they days of Madina).
Although, The Blank Theory did not capture my heart as profoundly as the emerging Madina Lake. Like a phoenix from the flame Madina burned with the same passion and energy that The Blank Theory possessed, however captivated my attention on a new level completely. Passion, energy combined with theatricality and humility are a potent concoction that is enough to create an addict out of the sanest creature in this universe (in which I am way off the spectrum of sanity). Thus I feel that the world deserves to know more about the spectacle that is Madina Lake, and how this band were able to latch onto my soul and physically tug at it with every note and syllable.
But lets start with the basics shall we? Before diving deep into the twisted inner workings of my mind. Madina Lake are quartet originally, and from what I’m aware still currently (hey not a complete stalker here!) situated in Chicago, USA. Formed in 2005 with the same members remaining right until their farewell tour in 2013:
The names in brackets relate the concept of Madina Lake a mystical place created by the band; each member has an, if you can call it an alter ego, that is homed in the mysterious town and plays a vital role revolving around external characters such as Adalia, Jonathan, and Pandora. This ideology was able to act as a catalyst for the achievement the band had in mind – from three albums to the release of Matthew’s book “Lila, The Divine Game”…hence the theatricality I previously mentioned.
Upon releasing The Disappearance of Adalia EP back in 2006 (funded through winning various stunts on the special edition of Twin Fear Factor) Madina began on a road that would soon cause them to become somewhat international successes. The release of this EP not only caught the undivided attention of potential fans but also the interest of Roadrunner Records. Personally, The Disappearance of Adalia contained two of the most significant songs of Madina Lake’s career, as “House Of Cards” was the first song I had heard by the wonders; as well as being on of the first singles by the band, it was also the first video they created. The song briefly hit number 38 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks.
The other song of great importance to moi is “One Last Kiss” that to this day stands as one of my personal favourites of the band as well as being in love with the video from day one.
Being the new kids on the block they had yet to make a name for themselves across seas. The release of their debut album “From Them, Through Us, To You” in 2007 managed to reach number 60 in the UK album charts. With evident connections to The Disappearance of Adalia the band began to tell the tale of the small town Madina Lake. The album opened several doors, from playing the Kerrang! and Warp Tour in 2008 to being specifically chosen to play the Projekt Revolution tour by Linkin Park in 2007. It is this album that instated my love for Madina Lake, The Disappearance of Adalia sparked the curiosity, “From Them…” sealed it with a venomous kiss. “From Them…” has a raw quality about it that enchants the mind and soul, upon first listen you’re hooked to the extraordinary essence. The artwork for the album also re-establishes this raw motion as the painting-like depictions emphasis an eerie ambiance, almost reminding me of prehistoric magic…if that makes sense. Not prehistoric as dinosaurs and cavemen; but as in pure emotion with an element of barbarisms of true magic…a savage, un-controlling nature that simply engrosses the looker/listener into a honest, unimaginable world…the world of Adalia’s Madina Lake…now I realise that all of that sounds extremely intense, perhaps even negative but quite the contrary I believe those qualities to be truly magnificent…something that I am extremely infatuated by.
“From Them, Through Us, To You” – 2007 – Track Listing:
1. The Auspice (2:00)
2. Here I Stand (3:23)
3. In Another Life (3:11)
4. Adalia (2:31)
5. House Of Cards (3:37)
6. Now or Never (3:20)
7. Pandora (3:24)
8. Stars (4:00)
9. River People (4:27)
10. One Last Kiss (3:27)
11. Me vs. the World (3:08)
12. Morning Sadness (5:22)
13. True Love (6:02)
14. Again & Again (3:15)
15. We’ll Be Okay (2:52)
16. Today – Smashing Pumpkins Cover (3:21)
17. Escape From Here (3:33)
18. Here I Stand (Acoustic)
Now I could go into in-depth detail about each and every song created by them, but instead am refraining myself as not to completely short circuit your ability to take in the true awesomeness of Madina Lake…this is taking great self-control I’ll have you know.
As well as this, the band also recorded a cover of Iron Maidens “Caught Somewhere In Time” for the July 16th 2007 edition of Kerrang! Magazine special cover CD “Maiden Heaven: A Tribute to Iron Maiden”
After a few more years of touring and climbing the social ladder of the music industry, Madina Lake returned to the studio, releasing their second album “Attics to Eden” in May 2009. Again, without wasting a single breath the band revisited their touring life style, starting off with supporting Anberlinon a Canadian tour moving shortly on to Soundwave Festival 2009 then Vans Warp Tour after three shows in Japan.
“Attics to Eden” revealed a more sophisticated side of Madina Lake compared to “From Them…” the band’s sound became somewhat cleaner…not in a band sense whatsoever, just a feel that they were starting to look more into the music and producing system of album creation, enhance each instrument to their optimum level. Allowing the sound of the album to reflect how the band was growing as a unit as the story developed further. They say that a band has a life time to write their first album, yet mere years or month to write the second. Madina Lake clearly illustrated how though the deadline maybe shorter that doesn’t mean quality should be sacrificed; instead it should be strengthened.
Interestingly, the inside booklet of the CD case unfolds to reveal a map of Adalia’s journey through Eden (the second mystical place of Madina Lake’s yet-to-be-told tale).
“Attics to Eden” – 2009 – Track Listing:
1. Never Take Us Alive (3:00)
2. Let’s Get Outta Here (2:59)
3. Legends (3:00)
4. Criminals (3:57)
5. Through the Pain (3:27)
6. Never Walk Alone (2:42)
7. Not For This World (3:12)
8. Welcome to Oblivion (3:03)
9. Silent Voices Kill (2:53)
10. Statistics (3:02)
11. Friends & Lovers (3:49)
12. Lila, the Divine Game (2:20)
13. Never Take Us Alive From the Attic Mix (3:28)
14. What’s the Point? (2:33)
15. Scorched Earth (3:03)
16. Angel Japanese bonus track (3:22)
Now in 2010 the band began a project entitled “Dresden Codex” the name of which refers to the oldest existing Mayan astrological codex; the band enhanced this to retell Madina Lake’s traditions of bringing astrology into their backstory aka. Folklore. Though the EP continued to tell the story of Madina Lake it was not included as part of the trilogy, instead acts more as an interesting piece of heritage rather than a puzzle piece to the story unveiled by the albums. After “Attics to Eden” this EP almost attempts to return to the primitive foundations of “From Them…” however brings together the rawness of their debut album and the musical appreciation of the second.
Yet, the band faced several instances that threatened the existence of a third album, one being an announcement of leaving Roadrunner Records through a Rocksound interview. But the most devastating event that not only put production on hold, but also the very lives of both band members and fan was on June 30th Matthew Leone was hospitalised after intervening in a violent domestic dispute near Nathan’s Chicago apartment. The man whom was beating his wife caused Matthew numerous life threatening injuries including a fractured skull, broken jaw and a swelling in his brain. The critical condition lead to doctors removing one third of his skull in hope that the swelling would subdue; the portion of his skull that was removed was later replaced after undergoing second surgery on July 21st. Nathan continuously expressed his gratitude to fans and friends as he claimed “the outpouring of support has been amazing…every band we’ve ever toured with, every Facebook and MySpace outlet has been going crazy with love and support. We’ve heard from friends, fans, neighbours, labels and management. It’s honestly overwhelming. When something horrible happens, you’re inclined to despise humanity, but this proves how many amazing people there are in the world.”
I remember the day I heard about Matthew incident; it felt beyond surreal. Seeing the photographs of him in the hospital bed was enough to make anyones heart stop beating. This was before meeting them, so being just a fan taking my own reactions must have only been a fraction to what his close friends and family were feeling. Simultaneously my faith in humanity hit rock bottom whilst soaring; how someone could come to harm an innocent man as well as someone they’re supposed to be in love with is completely beyond me, almost not human. However Matthew, a complete stranger to the couple in question risked his life (whether knowingly or not) to help the needed. He is an example of a true hero in modern society; chivalry that was arguably lost centuries ago was re-emerged.
Days later after the announced recovery, The Smashing Pumpkins (personal favourites of the Leone brothers) played a benefit show in Chicago for Matthew to help pay for his hospital bills that were sky high due to lack of insurance. This combined with special bundle selling of “Dresden Codex” on pledgemusic.com lead the bills being able to be paid off.
“Dresden Codex EP” – 2010 – Track Listing:
1. Hey Superstar (3:08)
2. Heroine (2:44)
3. They’re Coming For Me (3:12)
4. Let It Go Acoustic (4:08)
5. A Beautiful Lie hidden track A Rite Of Passage at 7:40 (13:29)
Now to conclude the magnificent trilogy, Madina Lake released “World War III” in 2011. The final chapter exposes a battle of good and evil that acts as a metaphor for the internal struggle of the self; as well as the discovery of Adalia. Interestingly, the track “Imagineer” was co produced and written by Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, a dream come true for the Leone twins especially. It was confirmed that Sony signed the band before recording the feature length though Mateo produced, engineered and mixed the album itself. Honestly, I find this album the most remarkable and suitable ending to the enticing tale; yet the album manages to capture two tales, not only the story of the fictional dimension, but also the very real universe of the members themselves. The seventh track on the album “We Got This” without fail brings unspoken emotion to me as it accounts Nathan’s inner turmoil when living through the horror of Matthew’s traumatising incident. Nathan has always stated that Matthew was his soul mate; it wasn’t until this song that I realised how strong and deep that connection truly was. I can’t imagine what it was like to face that, nor do I ever wish to; but it makes you appreciate everything and everyone you have in your life.
“World War III” – 2011 – Track Listing:
1. Howdy Neighbor! (3:43)
3. They’re Coming For Me (3:12)
4. Hey Superstar (3:09)
5. Fireworks (2:44)
6. Across 5 Oceans (3:27)
7. We Got This (3:04)
8. What It Is To Wonder (3:15)
9. Heroine (2:44)
10. Blood Red Flags (2:48)
11. Take Me Or Leave Me (3:30)
12. The Great Divide (8:47)
13. Jimmy (2:34)
14. Goin’ Down High (3:19)
15. A Beautiful Lie Japanese Edition (2:57)
Upon it’s release Madina Lake yet another shocking and saddening bomb on the River People community, that they would be conducting a Farewell Tour in 2012, finishing in the UK in 2013 (where “Madina Diary” recalls my own account of a truly magical and memorial experience that is engraved into me).
After putting down the microphones and guitars, the Leone twins decided to take a turn towards literature. Matthew neatly brought together everything their albums embodied into a single book – “Lila, The Divine Game”. Whilst Nathan dabbled in a more non-fictional element – “Don’t Love Me Judge Me” – an autobiography that reveals the hidden reality of Leone.
I’m aware that this is lengthy, but I’ve cut back so much as to keep to the point and not go off on some emotional tangent provided but them impact Madina Lake has had on me as a person and musician. This is a band whose influence is incredible obvious in my lyric and music writing as well as ideas of how a band should be. Remember how I said some bands in the smaller circle never really achieve their full potential? Well looking back on all Madina’s achievements I can see how they concluded the band at an appropriate time; it seems the tale of their imagination reached it’s satisfactory ending, something that both the band and fans are proud of. But during their time I don’t believe the industry truly appreciated who Madina Lake were and what they stood for.
They were a catalyst for the renewal storytelling through music; they saw the musical world through eyes that were lost back last century. What’s more they appreciated all mediums of creativity, from the music itself to the careful cinematography of their videos to the literature. Music and literature are two elements that withstood the tests of time, camera and producing works are the creation of the new era; thus the band embodies past, present and future, whilst exploring the frail boundary of reality and fantasy.