Talent comes in a great many forms, musical talent at least. Quite often, it bubbles and brews over time; a band kicks a few amps into shape in someone’s garage or spare room until a decent set of songs is in place, gigs a bit, thrives off the positive vibes and hopefully pushes on from there. Others choose to hammer out as many recorded jams as they can, putting them all up online, no matter how sloppy or primitive and build an intimidating arsenal of material that maybe only really gets noticeable for its redeemable qualities in style, execution or differentiation after album number 4 or 5. Other groups are formed around a single individual who is clearly of superior talent to his or her bandmates. These bands tend to either thrive off that individual’s glow and go on to spout their own roots to develop into or over time become frustrated and implode or fracture if those who are being carried become too heavy a burden for the star of the show. But then there are the bands who defy all of that, bands who just show up on day one, seemingly out of nowhere, with a stunning live show, all of equal dependence on each other’s’ skills and sit there clutching a frankly gorgeous debut EP in their mitts at the merch stall. Bands that is, like Bright Curse.
This London-based trio of French gentlemen, you may recall, formed in 2012 from the ashes of Soul Manifest and broke onto the scene in around 2013 with their self-titled EP, a UK tour supporting Wight and Trippy Wicked, a warming, raucous show at Desertfest and jammed numerous other support slots around Europe with the likes of NAAM, Mars Red Sky and Earthless. That Bright Curse EP itself was a curious contrast of everything the starkly heavy to the eerily delicate, featuring a wide variety of styles from the clunky stoner bounce of Unknown Mistress through the proggy-crunch of The Hermit and culminating in the frankly tear-jerking melodies of What’s Beyond The Sun? With Romain Daut’s seductive vocal harmonies marrying with his maturely-cut guitar lines and Zach Mizzi’s rolling, yet challenging changes in direction behind the kit, theirs was a difficult-to-forget moment as debuts go, that, coupled with a killer live show, delivered on all of its creators eponymous promises and then some.
Fast forward to 2016 and I can only hope that those Brightly Cursed promises are to be kept once again on Before The Shore, the band’s debut first full-length. Barely seconds after Mizzi’s opening squeal of “You Ready?!” from behind the kit, it’s immediately obvious from your ears through to your brain, via your heart, that it’s pretty safe to go and cash in on that betting stub. Lady Freedom is an honest mistress of an opener; full of Zach’s inventively rolling toms, new bassist Max Ternebring’s aspalt-smoothing basslines and of course Monsieur Daut’s glory-empowering riffs and soul-capturing vocals.
The Shore takes a lazier walk to the bassline and an initially ambitious chug behind the guitars as Zach slowly takes hold of Romain’s reigns and builds the song from a clam, yet playful stoner melody by the beach-side into a forcefully commanding passage of brooding hard rock. Romain keeps his vocal constraint on a tighter leash on this track, saving it for some more epic battles later on, as the percussion works it’s magic behind him, leaving the frontman to remind you that you’re “sure to find what you’re not looking for… on this Shore” before a closing bout of energetic guitar psyches you back out to sea. The tempos re-begin just as subtly but ramp up harder and faster on Cheating Pain as Romain’s chug becomes a stomp into a pounding drive of a set of mini-climaxes, precluding a set of mysterious samples and an eclectic romp of a finale.
So far, so very good but as Bright Curse begin to shift through their various gears, the thought nags in my mind: “Are all these twangling guitar-lines, swaggering bass grooves and soulful, yet masculine melodies just far too Witchcraft and Graveyard-centric to be seen as originally brilliant in their own right?” I still feel that it’s a legitimate question to ask of a record like Before The Shore: it’s all good powerful, bluesy stuff, but am I seeing this all correctly for its own merit, or is this a complex ear-filtering exercise from the recent revival of all things retro? Seemingly observing my question, the curiously topically-titled Walking In A Graveyard (Bloody Witch) comes floating by on the soundwaves. This supreme album highlight, whether it knows it or not is the most Graveyard-sounding of Romain, Max and Zach’s well-worked dittys, but yet manages to season the Swedes pot of folk-laden stoner blues into a whole different recipe of excellence. Romain is more commanding here, taking the journey to the listener armed with an axe of powerfully riffing finesse and a throat of fire-laden, impassioned roars. Walking… still carries the Bright Curse air of grace but the fact that you can hear all three players performing both as individuals and as a band knit as tightly as any other out there, Graveyard included, is nothing short of both delightfully clever and surprisingly calming.
Candles And Flowers brings some more straight-up modern stoner grooves to the party and leaves you with a happy bouncy feeling that lasts beyond Romain’s fuzzy guitars, Zach’s playful cowbell and Max’s doo-wop backing vocals and stays long into the album’s early evening. Northern Sky does away with the threat of brutish heaviosity and replaces Romain’s guitar action with some vintage Hammond glories to form a kind of Thin Lizzy and Astra hybrid that eventually dons a psychedelic cape of keyboards and billows off into the stars, backed by Daut’s honest croon behind the mic.
Earth’s Last Song has every ounce of the mournful tone that you’d expect from a piece carrying a title as such as it does. Zach gently guides the Bright, yet Cursed ship through the melting icebergs of Max’s bass-plundered demise and Romain’s planet-aligning odes to a spectacularly doomed tomorrow at the hands of that vicious breed of mankind. It’s blissful stuff and all over too soon.
Despite their youthful appearance and relative limited experience so far on the underground heavy blues scene, Bright Curse know exactly what they’re doing. And they do it bloody well. JB Pilon and the band’s own stunning production quality, alongside Jaime Gomez Arellano’s ever-bedazzling mastering work puts a polished cherry on the top of a debut that can be truthfully described as a solid bout of Deep Purple, Yes, The Eagles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin worship, all updated for the modern age. Kadavar, Colour Haze, Elder and Graveyard themselves should take note; the UK is far from ready to hand over its jewelled heritage of psychedelic rock without a fight any time soon. Especially, that is, when we have the humble, honest but yet richly shining talents of the likes of Bright Curse to enchant us long before you reach our distinguished shores.
Scribed by: Pete Green