Wednesday 13 March 2013

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Specter At The Feast - album review

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Specter At The Feast

CD / LP / Download

Abstract Dragon Records

7.5 / 10

Twelve years since their debut BRMC album marked them out as masters of  their own brand of feedback-laden bluesy guitar rock, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club return with their sixth album, Specter At The Feast, their first album since 2010’s Beat The Devil’s Tattoo.

From the opening brooding building bars of Fire Walker, where it takes two minutes for the first vocals to appear, it’s clear that they’ve decided not to divert too far away from the formulae that have served them so well in the past – the song building through its six minutes, half-spoken, half-sung vocals.

Lead single Let The Day Begin shows off the more radio-friendly element of their sound, driven by a tribal drumbeat and guitars turned up to one notch below distortion.  Returning follows a similar path and demonstrates perfectly why some bands shouldn’t try and be something they’re not.  It’s got a familiarity to it that keeps you listening without breaking down any new barriers.

Standout tracks for me are Lullaby, adding in some beautiful vocal harmonies as the song draws to a close, showing the band’s softer edges.  Hate The Taste starts with Peter Hayes’ vocals at the forefront underpinned by slightly fuzzy guitar, before it hits out half way through into a full-on blues-rock stomp. 

New drummer Leah Shapiro sounds like she’s always been there. That dirty blues-rock sound continues in the next two tracks both weighing in at three and half minutes, yet there’s enough variety in the guitars and the tone on Hayes’ voice for Rival and Teenage Disease to sound like complimentary songs to each other rather than rehashes of the same formula.

They take the sound down for the soulful Some Kind Of Ghost, whilst Sometimes The Light envelops the listener in a blanket of fuzzy guitars and Hayes’ almost indecipherable vocals.  Funny Games adopts a similar approach, but with the balance in the mix tipping back towards Hayes.

Sell It clocks in close to seven minutes and goes back to the blues-rock blueprint of the earlier tracks, Hayes screeching over increasingly louder and more frantic guitars. The album closes with the eight minute epic Lose Yourself, which follows that traditional album-ending slow-build into an expansive guitar section, quiet middle section and  without ever feeling clichéd or formulaic.

It’s a Black Rebel Motorcycle album.  There’s not a weak track, but there’s nothing that’s going to blow your mind either, but it’s genuinely engaging in the way it changes pace, changes emphasis without straying away from what you already know (and maybe love) about them.

If you love them, you’ll love it.  If you’ve dipped in and out of their back catalogue, you’ll go back and reinvestigate.  If you’ve never liked them, this album won’t convince you any other way.  For a band six albums in with the hype of their debut behind them, that’s no mean feat.

Specter At The Feast is out on 18 March. You can stream the album until then via this link.

Black Rebel Motorcycle’s official website is here.  They are also on Twitter and Facebook.

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