DEAD QUIET – IV
Vancouver’s Dead Quiet have wasted no time in their musical endeavours. Releasing their fourth album, simply titled “IV,” within a span of nine years is a testament to their dedication. However, although they’ve opened for John Garcia’s don’t mistake them for your typical stoner metal band. No, rather Dead Quiet’s sound leans closer to the proto metal stylings of Budgie.
The combination of Kevin Keegan’s mesmerizing vocals (let’s avoid any “I’d love it” references here, as our Canadian friends might not catch the football humour) and Brock MacInnes’ skilled guitar work sets the tone right from the opening track, “The Hanging Man.” “No Gods, No Gold” showcases Michael Rosen’s compelling organ skills and Michael Grossnickle’s prominent bass lines and if you’re not thinking of Deep Purple, I can’t help you.
As it progresses, this nine tracker presents some truly stunning compositions. “Dying to Live Again” takes on an almost progressive rock vibe with its intentions, while “Murder City” delves into labyrinthine territories, stretching out, as it does. Indeed, the only disappointment lies in the fact that “Leave A Light On” isn’t a Belinda Carlisle record, but rather a glorious piano-infused epic. Nevertheless, one can’t have everything.
BLACK RAINBOWS – SUPERSKULL (2023)
Black Rainbow’s “Superskull” album showcases the enduring talent and confidence of Italy’s desert rock royalty as they enter their third decade. Opening with “Apocalypse March,” the album immediately captures the listener’s attention with its impeccable skill and unwavering confidence. However, it is the track “Superhero Dopeproof” that truly shines, surpassing even its intriguing title with its fuzzy genius.
Listening to “Superskull” feels like being transported through a time machine to the heyday of desert rock, but delve deeper and there’s more here. While tracks like “Cosmic Ride Of The Crystal Skull” exude a dry as dust-like quality, there are also moments of trippy brilliance, such as the mesmerizing “The Pilgrim Son.”
The album is an unapologetic celebration of riffs, and “Megalomania” is a testament to this. Packed with infectious hooks and captivating melodies, it keeps the momentum going strong. And just when you think they might be winding down, Black Rainbow finishes with a sprint of “Fire In The Sky,” leaving no doubt that they are far from finished.
“Superskull” is nothing more and nothing less than an exercise in the art of riffs and a testament to Black Rainbow’s enduring musical prowess.
ART NATION – INCEPTION
Whether you enjoy Art Nation’s “Inception” album or not rather depends on your feelings toward the phrases “Swedish melodic rock” and “Frontiers Records” because this album is essentially a microcosm of those elements. With Christoffer Borg back in the band after making peace with singer Alexander Strandell (also in Crowne), Art Nation sounds invigorated on “Brutal And Beautiful.”
The album showcases the band’s classiness, exemplified in tracks like “Superman,” where their melodic rock prowess shines through. While there are no surprises or groundbreaking moments on “Inception,” Art Nation embraces their roots and stays true to their style. Not for nothing is a track, “The Legend Reborn” on this release, you suspect.
There is an insatiable market for this type of music – and Frontiers, the Italian label – release about 46 albums like this a month it seems, and fans will undoubtedly lap up tracks like “Powerless,” which deliver the expected melodic hooks and anthemic choruses. While it may not push any boundaries, “Inception” provides a solid dose of Swedish melodic rock.
RENOVATIONS – BLANK (2023)
“We don’t want to be ignored, we want to fight and be in the game” – these powerful opening lines introduce “Precious Stone,” the captivating opening track of “Blank,” the second album by the Edinburgh trio. Comprised of Charlotte Pulcino on vocals and bass, Ioana Pavel on guitars, and Gian Sudar on drums and synths, this band formed in 2019 with the intention of writing songs about the effects of Brexit. Throughout “Blank,” they prove to be an intriguing and interesting group, showcasing their talents and strong vision
“We don’t want to be ignored, we want to fight and be in the game” – these powerful opening lines introduce “Precious Stone,” the captivating opening track of “Blank,” the second album by the Edinburgh trio. Comprised of Charlotte Pulcino on vocals and bass, Ioana Pavel on guitars, and Gian Sudar on drums and synths, this band formed in 2019 with the intention of writing songs about the effects of Brexit. Throughout “Blank,” they prove to be an intriguing and interesting group, showcasing their talents and strong vision.
Bed Is In The Bathroom,” captivates with its impressive electro hum, demonstrating their ability to delve into different sonic territories. This band refuses to conform to conventional expectations, constantly pushing boundaries and defying categorisation. Their lyrics draw from personal experiences, lending an authentic and genuine quality to their music. “Scars” stands out as an impressive modern alt-rock piece, showcasing their ability to create powerful anthems.
The dance influences burst to the fore on “Grind Mentality,” adding an exciting dimension to their sound. Meanwhile, the closing song, “Sphere,” exudes a disorientating, dark energy.
“Blank” was produced by the band and funded with the support of Help Musicians UK, and stands as a testament to their dedication and ambition. With a strong vision of what they want to be, this album is filled with ideas and a willingness to take risks.
HEARTBREAK REMEDY- LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL
“Back when I was 21, all I wanted was a little bit of fun,” goes the opening chorus here, and that’s been Heartbreak Remedy for as long as I’ve been reviewing their records. “Let The Good Times Roll” is the band’s third album, arriving a decade after their formation. This milestone allows them to reflect on their journey with a mix of pride and introspection. The aforementioned track, “21 Kings,” perfectly embodies this sentiment, while the AC/DC-esque groove of “Just A Disease” further showcases their talent for “proper” hard rock.
However, Heartbreak Remedy also acknowledges the consequences of their wild partying in “White Line Suicide”; it is the other side of the coin: “always pushing for more, more, more, now he’s laid out in the morgue.”
Despite this newfound wisdom, Heartbreak Remedy hasn’t lost any of their songwriting skill. “Working Man’s Blues” showcases their talent, bursting with small-town rage and echoing the spirit of bands like The Answer. On the other hand, “Goodbye” is expertly executed as a ballad; it may pay homage to the opening line of “Help,” let’s say, but stands on its own merit. “Crypt Kicker” injects an energetic vibe into the album, featuring brilliant riffs that highlight the band’s musical prowess. Tracks like “One More for the Road” boast powerful hooks, while the acoustic gem “Drowning” deals directly with depression and anxiety, perhaps reflecting the band’s state in 2023 – the rock ‘n’ roll, but also the worries too.
Heartbreak Remedy, once the promising young boys, have now grown older, wiser, and more mature. They have transformed into a damn fine hard rock band, as evidenced by “Let The Good Times Roll,” a damn fine album.
DREW HOLCOMB AND THE NEIGHBORS – STRANGERS NO MORE
Halfway through the album “Strangers No More,” listeners are greeted with the song “Troubles,” where Drew Holcomb lists all the issues he has in the world. Surprisingly, this track embodies a sense of contentment rarely heard since the Laurel Canyon sound of 1968. This captures the overall vibe of the record, which seems to be a product unique to this particular period of existence. In the wake of the pandemic, we have collectively realized what truly matters, and that sentiment permeates tracks like “Fly” and the soulful “All The Money In The World.”
Holcomb himself acknowledges that “Strangers No More” embraces a wider range of topics and textures compared to his previous albums. The songwriting has become more introspective and universal, with a specificity that applies to everyone’s experiences. Love songs, which were abundant in his earlier works, have been replaced by tunes that explore themes of friendship, death, introspection, and Holcomb’s connection to his audience. The album presents a longer list of characters, showcasing the depth and variety of emotions and stories.
One standout track, “Dance With Everybody,” exudes a spirit of collaboration with an E Street Band type feel. Co-written with Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, it exemplifies the celebratory atmosphere found throughout the record. This collaborative energy extends to the closing track, “Free (Not Afraid To Die),” which further contributes to the album’s calm and sanguine ambiance.
With its broad themes, introspective songwriting, and captivating collaborations, the album stands as one of the warmest and “Strangers No More” most welcoming records you’ll come across.