While winter climes may be more suited to the face-painted and sombre-faced ones, there’s something to be said about warming yourself up with some Hard Rocking. Ghost Cult rounds up some of this year’s early Melodic and Hard Rock releases to see if there’s not something that can’t bring the heat…
Massive – Rebuild Destroy (Off Yer Rocka)
Kicking off with a spiky, building rock lick that barrels into vibrant Hard Rocking track not a million miles from early Guns n’ Roses in sound and intent, complete with an Axl sliding drawl to exit the chorus, Massive’s third album makes a good first impression straight out the blocks with ‘Generation Riot’, a song bursting with everything that gets the blood pumping; Rock riffs, big hooks, engaging gang vocals and a vitality and infectious energy. ‘Long Time Coming’ picks up the 12-bar vibe and keeps the intensity up, while Ben Laguda is channeling his inner-Slash with the licks and flicks embellishing another rousing anthem that nods to compatriots Airborne with its call and response.
Oh, hell yes!
When Massive are hitting this adrenaline-fuelled, G’n’F’n’R meets AC/DC cocktail, not only does it seem like being in the band is the most fun a gentleman can have with their clothes (mostly) on, listening to them ain’t a bad place to be either, and even when things slow down, there’s nods to Cinderella or a cool contemporary Blues Rock slant to some of the mid-album cuts. It may appear simple, but it’s not easy to write this stuff well and pull off a consistent collection of songs, and Massive are more than effective. While not every track lives up to the standard of the opening salvo, above all, this is fun good time Rock n’ Roll. A throwback to a bygone era, perhaps, but a good Rock song is a good Rock song, and Massive know how to Rock. 8 / 10
Inglorious – Ride To Nowhere (Frontiers)
Following on the heels of two well-received albums, Inglorious now step forward and into the territory of what is often even more difficult than that difficult second album – that very difficult third album – the one that facilitates a more mature direction to set up the next stage of the career while seeking to retain enough of what has drawn people to the band in the first place. Of course, all of this is presented as a necessary artistic growth and is usually responsible for a band jumping up a rung or two on the ladder of success. Add in some much publicised line-up changes on the eve of the album’s release, and vocalist Nathan James’ (Trans-Siberian Orchestra / Uli Roth) dalliances with stages of a more theatrical variety, and there is intrigue and spotlight to be shone in the direction of the London quintet.
For the most part, Ride To Nowhere successfully achieves its aims. A more mature and well-rounded outing than its predecessors, when classily crafted creations like ‘Tomorrow’, which is straight out of the top end of the Thunder playbook appear, it proves that Inglorious still has song-writing chops and can deliver in that oh-so-difficult arena of melodic yet earnest Rock music.
They also have filler, though, ‘Queen’ and ‘Liar’ in particular as a mid-album pairing kills the momentum. Yet, it’s not an irretrievable situation, and it is in the latter part of the album where the true gems both lie and shine; the reflective and exemplary ‘I Don’t Know You’ is dramatic and emotive, with a chorus that could adorn a Whitesnake ballad, and acoustic closer ‘Glory Days’ is a moving and contemplative piece. Inglorious can clearly write excellent songs. What they haven’t quite been able to do just yet is combine all the component pieces into an excellent album, though there is plenty of worth here. 7 / 10
The Alligator Wine – The Flying Carousel EP (Century Media)
An interesting concoction, The Alligator Wine move seamlessly from a Classic Rock tinged title track, replete with swirling organs and vintage Rock tendencies, to an impressive eighties Synth Rock second song in ‘Dream Eyed Little Girl’, with drawled vocals adding a Gothic touch. With closing effort the seven-minute and aptly titled ’Reptile’ unwinding with a Fields Of The Nephilim slant to its musings, while this EP may have its sound rooted in different elements of the past, its overall purpose is to advance the boundaries of the bands capabilities.
It may sound like the duo’s second release, The Flying Carousel, lacks a binding thread, but instead it proves that an EP can still be a valid vehicle with which to spread some wings and establish different elements of a band’s sound, and that a band can have more than one string to their bow and not necessarily just be one thing. One of the more intriguing discoveries early in the year, there’s plenty more to be had from this eclectic synth-based pair. 7 / 10
Hey Zeus – X (Argonauta)
Not to be confused with the band X and their album Hey Zeus (Big Life), with X, Hey Zeus make no disguise of the fact that the love a bit of Classic Rock. Like the impassioned sportsman, biceps curled in competitive rage, does with their heart, some bands like to wear their influences loud and proud on their proverbial sleeves, and from the outset, ‘These Eyes’ kicks off with an Ian Paice drum-fill that tumbles into the type of seventies riff that could well have been ripped off from any number of bands from Kiss to Judas Priest to UFO.
The rest of the album mixes in punkier ideas with a fuzzy, retro vibe: ‘I Don’t Want It’ has a White Stripes arrogance and swagger, while ‘Queens’ dances to the Clutch beat. ‘X Marks The Rocks’ is enthusiastic Garage Rock. ‘Gilded’ may sit more in the Desert Rock camp, but, like everything on this album is a perfectly decent song, while ‘Save Your’ betrays more Deep Purple love than their cover of the Purp’s ‘Bloodsucker’.
Hey Zeus don’t get much wrong on their bratty, garage blues Classic Rock-worshipping debut album. It’s not going to change your life, but at less than half an hour, X doesn’t outstay any welcomes and is a perfectly enjoyable way to pass the time. 6 / 10
Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters – Show Me Your Teeth (Pledge)
Taking a more stripped back approach than the other albums in this collection of rockers, Beth Blade is the owner of a powerful voice, and isn’t afraid to use it. Not a million miles away from Lzzy Hale in terms of vocal delivery, when it comes to song-writing style, Show Me Your Teeth is, instead, warmly retrospective, with fun nods to Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Thunder and other elements of our Rock record collections past, all of which forms a very appealing mix of hook-filled Rock n’ Roll, with an authoritative central focus in Blade.
Things are let down a touch by a production could do with a layer or two (or ten) of polish, sounding unfortunately like a (well recorded) demo, this does nothing to diminish from the song-writing prowess. Favouring a riff/verse/chorus/break/chorus structure, Blade sets about laying down a series of earworms and infectious rockers with enthusiasm and ease. ‘Secrets’ is a gloriously fun opener, and there are other highlights spread throughout the length of the Beautiful Disasters’ second opus, such as ‘On And On’ and the troubadour’s tale ‘You and I’, that make this a worthwhile and gratifying release. That said, get Beth and her troupe the right backing (surely there’s enough here for an established label to snap them up and put them in front of a decent producer), and with the odd tweak to the dynamics here and there, the third time should indeed be the charm. 6 / 10
John Diva and the Rockets Of Love – Mama Said Rock Is Dead (SPV/Steamhammer)
It has been ten years since Steel Panther encouraged us all to Feel The Steel (Universal), and while there hasn’t exactly been an explosion (inside or outside the crotch area) of bands uniting under the Hard Rock banner, eighties influenced Rock music is, at least, no longer the pariah of our world. Yet, it’s difficult to tell if, like Steel Panther, those that are exuberantly flouting its wares, and I firmly include John Diva and the Rockets of Love in this conundrum, are a parody act, or just a celebrating great Hard Rock.
See, it’s hard to shake the feeling that John Diva is taking the piss a little bit, and while Rock n’ Roll has never been srzbznzz, it does cheapen things somewhat when things are a little too copycat in places. ‘Lolita’ is the best Van Halen song since the one that Steel Panther did on Balls Out, ‘Wildlife’ will have David Coverdale consulting copyright lawyers due to how close to ‘Give Me All Your Love Tonight’ it is, and ‘Blinded’ nicks the essence and structure (including introductory wailing solo) from ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’. While tongue-in-cheek, the lyrics at least stay (just about) on right side of crude – we’re “Lovin’ it, The Hard Way”, apparently, but at least there’s no plumbing the depths of, say, ‘The Shocker’.
Look, there’s plenty on Mama Said Rock Is Dead for those of us who dig our Flesh And Blood (Capitol) and our Pornograffiti (A&M), yet, it’s hard to excited about a collection of songs that are not quite as good as those they’re influenced by, as nice as it is to hear that the rockin’ eighties style is happening again. If you can get past that, there is, at least, fun to be had with the Rockets of Love. Just don’t go expecting anything particularly new, or anything particularly substantial. 5 / 10