San Diego rock band Mrs. Henry have unleashed Keep On Rising - Act II : Faith, Fate and Hope in The Land of Nothing Matters, the second part of the band’s three part album and rock opera series Keep On Rising. In the storied tradition of grand, epic trilogies like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, Keep On Rising follows the hero’s journey by doubling down on a frenzied, manic darkness, while amplifying the twists and turns in the band’s expansive narrative scope. As bassist Blake Dean remarks “This is our Empire Strikes Back, 6’ o'clock - The Underworld.” The album moves in a serpent-like manner; it gleefully sheds its skin to reveal new identities and movements for the audience to gaze at in a hypnotized stupor. With incredible highlights and dynamics ranging from monster fuzz jams to orchestra ballads, Act II loudly kicks the door back open, and highlights the group’s knack for heady studio wizardry, compelling sonic dynamics, and an all-encompassing narrative vision. “Act II is a rollercoaster ride through heaven and hell,” says Mrs. Henry’s Dan Cervantes, and centers itself around the transformation of character, while embracing the rules of reality.
Act II picks up where Act I ends: the titular hero of the story Mrs. Henry has crossed the threshold of The Sex Sells, Love Drugs, Rock N Roll Society and is born again in The Land of Nothing Matters. Traversing the powers of Faith, Fate, and Hope, Mrs. Henry and Act II present a staggering album rich with equal measure of suspense and humor, and an enticing rabbit hole for listeners to wholeheartedly leap into and get lost within. The music and the lyrics don’t waste time in taking you into the hallucinations, the fantasies, and the psychedelic state of The Land of Nothing Matters. The militant march of in the crescendo-ing intro song “Delivery Room of the Morning Sun” bubbles and boils before reveling in the frenzied garage-rock/psychedelic fervor of “Here I Am.” A haunting voice beckons for Mrs. Henry to rise, who returns the request with a bone-chilling primal scream, a declaration of existence. “Here I Am” growls our protagonist, accepting the call before hurling into the unknown.
“Musically, we are exploring orchestral and operatic themes that really start to take shape. We used the studio to the fullest on these songs - layering parts in brass, strings, woodwinds, vibes and percussion using a Mellotron,” says Cervantes. “The goal of this album was to make something that was purely Mrs. Henry. No guest performers, everything is us.”
The group’s studio expertise is on full display across songs like yin-and-yang songs “It’s Okay” and “It’s Not Okay.” The duality of these songs reflects a heightened sense of dynamics, and is a microcosm of the album as a whole. The former ballad pairs grounded keys with a floating mellotron, a piece of equipment that the group aimed to center Act II around. “It’s Okay” was a song that was originally written after the death of my Father in 2018,” says Mrs. Henry’s Jody Bagley. “The idea of the song for me originally came from the desire to find peace in his death, by understanding that it’s okay that things are not ever going to be the same as they were, and working towards understanding and embracing that notion.”
The song rises and swells overtop of gorgeous acoustic strumming, and a compelling vocal performance by Bagley. As the former transitions into the latter, a piercing, awe-inspiring guitar takes hold, and is followed by chilling group vocals inspired by the classical narrative concepts of the Greek Chorus. “[“It’s Not Okay”] really explores the character’s struggle and turmoil in trying to understand this reality, says Bagley. “The character knows that they have to sit with these emotions for however long it takes until they are physically and emotionally ready to move on.”
Elsewhere, Act II captures the band’s experimental approach to studio recording. Mrs. Henry honed in on a number of processes that shaped the sound and performance of the album. From unique vocal recording, to layering in dynamic multi-tracked takes, experimental tape machine sonics, repeated lyrical and musical phrases and more, Mrs. Henry has crafted a sonic universe for their titular character to wrestle within, but the evolution through this struggle and eventual acceptance is the ultimate destination. Deep, animated grooves, strong vocal harmonies, memorable guitar and keyboard performances, and movements bleeding into one another, Act II is a high-wire act that balances the exhilaration of suspense with the groundedness of acceptance. Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, and Act II is no different.
Act II concludes in a triumphant fanfare of sounds that teases the next chapter of the trilogy. The album ends with hope rising up as the protagonist rebuilds themself up to something greater than they were before. Harkening back to different melodies and themes from present, past, and future, the group sets the stage for the series’ grand finale.
Mrs. Henry is led by Dan Cervantes (Howlin Rain guitarist + Blind Owl label owner), and is rounded out by Jody Bagley (Vocals and Keyboards), Blake Dean (Vocals and Bass), Chad Lee (Vocals and Drums), and Allan Ritter (Vocals and Drums). The group was ignited by a consciousness-changing West Coast tour in 2015. Since then, Mrs. Henry has spent the last five years on the road building an unrivaled reputation for their brand of intergalactic boogie with a torrent of improvisation, and in turn, a cult following atop their already well-established individual credits (Howlin’ Rain, The Schizophonics, The Silent Comedy). Endurance is their vocation and bringing unapologetically live music into a new era is their mission.
Act II additionally follows two San Diego Music Award wins for Mrs. Henry, as well as multiple tours as Chest Fever performing famed live albums and concerts by The Band including The Last Waltz and Rock of Ages. The group additionally released multiple singles with legendary, Songwriters Hall of Fame songwriter Jack Tempchin, who is best known for penning some of the Eagles’ most beloved songs including “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and co-writing “ Already Gone,” “The Girl From Yesterday,” and “It’s Your World Now.”
KEEP ON RISING - ACT II: FAITH, FATE AND HOPE IN THE LAND OF NOTHING MATTERS TRACKLIST
Delivery Room of The Morning Sun
Here I Am
The Land Of Nothing Matters
Fate Vs. Faith
It’s NOT Okay
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Find A Circle (It’s A Wonderful Feeling)
And ... Action!
The Tall Tell Tale of The Three Little Pigs
What's My Re-Action?!
OM WAY OH
Hope Is Rising