By Howard Dukes
December 20, 2013 – Some artists are the type with whom listeners grow comfortable. You throw their CD on and you know what you’re going to get. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the groove doesn’t become a rut. Then there are the risk takers. These are the artists for whom mastery of a certain style or genre stands as a signal that the time has come to try something totally different. Rolling with these performers will lead to a curvy and bumpy ride, and some fans exit with the artistic version of motion sickness as they mutter ‘I didn’t leave (insert artist’s name here), they left me.’ The fans that remain often find the trip to be very rewarding. Still, the life of an artistic free spirit is a risky one.
Detroiter Inohs Sivad embraces that risk on her fourth studio album Fourward – a project that is 180 degrees opposite of much of her past output. She did hint at the kind of hard rock influences that characterize Fourward on her previous project, No Goodbyes. Still, Sivad goes deep into rock territory on Fourward. That album includes tracks the rock/blues tune “Glass,” where she admonishes those who judge others without possessing the self-awareness to make sure their stuff is together. The cut that features an absolutely luscious hook, “You can’t walk on water/you can’t split the sea/you can’t move a mountain/So why you judging me?”
Sivad always had a way of crafting songs that work both as motivational, life affirming anthems and as works of art, and she continues in that vein on tracks such as the funk/rock “Pearls,” the rock/folk “Epic” and the heavy metal influenced “Drive.” “Pearls” is a cautionary tale about the risks of sharing gifts and words of wisdom with those who might not appreciate them, while also imploring the listener not to allow the caution caused by betrayal to harden into bitterness and cynicism. “My heart is torn apart. I wonder where to start / Strange to see that the change starts with me / Give of myself or withhold? To give would free my soul.”
“Epic” is a cut with the theme of self-fulfillment. Sivad, always the master of metaphor – remember “Brown Eyed Susan” from Changes? – and on this track she casts the search for self-fulfillment as a fairy tale quest. “Gather your wishes/Climb your beanstalks/Wait for the kisses down the road you walk.” The hard charging “Drive” serves as Sivad’s invocation to stop hesitating and searching for outside motivation and take control, while “Spirit” is an up-tempo inspirational track that is sitting there and waiting for some sports team to use as their anthem.
Sivad had a hand in writing the lyrics for all of the songs with one notable exception – her deeply funky and rocking reimagining of “My Prerogative,” which is closer to the funk/rock of Funkadelic than the early New Jack Swing of Bobby Brown and Teddy Riley. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but Sivad figured that if she was going to cover the song she might as well make it her own.
Sivad includes three delicious slow jams for those who can’t handle those raucous guitars: “Burn” is an appropriately titled torch song that finds Sivad asking for the type of heated passion that matches her own. “Bridge” features a Latin tinged acoustic guitar and finds Sivad removing all doubt about the love she feels for her man, while “Over” will be balm for anyone seeking to purge themselves of any poisonous relationships.
Deus Christian brought the title track to Sivad because he wanted to push her music more fully into a direction where she had previously only dabbled. Such a push was risky, but it pays dividends throughout the entire album. The instrumentation more than measures up and Sivad and her co-writers craft lyrics that move far beyond the background. With Fourward, the ever-interesting Inos Sivad shows she can handle rock as effortlessly has she takes on the indie soul that had long been her bailiwick. It’s a new ride for fans of her excellent past discography, but one that is absolutely worth taking. Highly Recommended.