Blues Pills previous EP, Devil Man proved to be a tantalising glimpse of what this quite extraordinary band is capable of. Like a dealer, they gave a taste of what they could do and got us hooked. The weight of expectation around this debut full length naturally grew as a result and all eyes are now on them to see if they can deliver over a sustained period of time. Of course they can, as if there was any doubt.
Blues Pills may be unfairly banded in with acts such as Witchcraft, Graveyard, Kadavar, Horisont…etc who all plough the same furrow of late 60’s/early 70’s blues rock and proto metal but Blues Pills have a few things that raise them above their “contemporaries” into a category apart. Firstly the band has soul, bags of soul. Not the horn parping, sharp suited soul of Sam And Dave or Otis Redding but a deeper, intuitive interpretation of soul…music that comes from way down inside and is meant to be felt, as much as heard. Secondly they have Elin Larsson. Larsson possesses a voice that is rare in these days of Autotune and style over substance. It’s a voice that drips with raw blues emotion and wails with the power of Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and early Tina Turner.
That’s not to say that Larsson is in any way the only notable thing about the band. As a whole the group gels as a powerful unit as any great band certainly should. The rhythm section of Cory Berry and Zack Anderson operates as tightly as any of the greats; Ward and Butler, Bonham and Jones…etc. They create a rock steady yet malleable bedrock for the guitar work of Dorian Sorriaux who, at 18 years old, must offer some proof of reincarnation! The guy definitely has an old head on young shoulders. His command of the instrument is second to none; his playing is firmly entrenched in the blues boom of the 60’s invoking the sounds of Clapton and Peter Green with a dexterity and taste that seems almost supernatural given his age. Many players who have been playing for longer than the guy has been alive fail to capture the feel and skill that he possesses.
Great playing and great vocals would all count for nothing if the material was weak (Dragonforce anyone?). Fortunately Blues Pills deliver in spades here. The band takes the framework of the blues as the basis for their songs and pulls in elements of funk, soul, jazz and early hard rock. When they rock, such as on opener High Class Woman, they hit a natural, visceral groove and when they pull it back on tracks such as River they ramp up the emotive elements of their sound to create a sound that cascades from high drama to delicate soul searching. Simplicity is the key for the band. They never indulge in aimless meandering or progtastic leaps of tempo preferring to hit a groove and mine it for all it’s worth building in peaks and troughs that pull the listener along. Also included is a reworked version of Devil Man from the previous EP. Instead of simply re-recording, or even just sticking the same recording on the album, the song has been revamped from a brooding stomper of a track into something far harder edged and kick arse!!!
If I have one small criticism, and it is a very small one, it is regarding the running order of the album. Although each track is a perfectly realised nugget of blues rock gold, the pacing of the album does seem to place the slower, more epic tracks right at the heart of the album when spreading them out amongst the edgier, more up beat songs may have given them greater emotional impact.
There is no doubt that this album is going to feature on many year end best of lists. It is simply too damn good not to and remarkably seems to be an album that, although by no means having anything to do with pretty much any metal genre at all, is garnering attention across the metal community at the rate of a tsunami. It just goes to show that real music will reach out and grab you whatever you think your tastes might be.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall