Released by: Provogue Records
Release date: 26th August 2016
Ray “Rafer John” Cerbone – Vocals
Tony Rombola – Guitarist
Brian Carpenter – Bass
Shannon Larkin – Drums
- Evil is as Evil Does
- Junkie Hell
- Devil Plays a Strat
- I Think Not
- Whiskey in My Coffee
- The Tower
- Crossed Over
- Blues are Fallin’ from the Sky
- Work in Progress
- 10. The Devil in Me
- Blue Cross
- When the Musics Over (Bonus Track)
Something is definitely stirring the blues pot right now with the past 12 months offering some remarkable new releases – many of which I have had the good fortune to review. I’ve listened to new blues bands fronted by both male and female vocalists, solo albums, side projects from seasoned musicians and collaborations – all impressive and all making me want to love this genre (which can so easily sound samey) with renewed enthusiasm . This self titled debut album being my latest dose of the blues, I was curious if any true originality had been conjured up on this release and if not, did I really care?
First up here is “Evil is as Evil Does” – simple rhyming lyrics coupled with a classic catchy blues rhythm get things off to a great start and ease the listener into the album before transporting them to the dark side with “Junkie Hell” which is up next. As the name might suggest it’s quite a hard hitting reminder of the dangers of drug abuse carried across in a slow repetitive easy going rhythm that only the blues can pull off.
As much as I relished the first two songs on this release, its track 3 “Devil Plays a Strat” which marks the turning point on the album for me. Commencing with what I would describe as quite a dirty rock rhythm, vocals are unique and powerful, lyrics dark and intense – accompanied by exceptional guitar playing, this is a mood setting masterpiece and is the perfect demonstration of what this hugely talented quartet are capable of. It may be worth noting at this point that if you intend to check out this release on the precedent of being a Godsmack fan, this is about as far removed from their grunge metal style as possible. Marketed as a blues album (although strictly it isn’t in its entirety) working with a different vocalist makes this unrecognisable from anything Tony Rombola and Shannon Larkin have previously produced.
A melodic example of lyrical and musical brilliance, I was quite easily hooked on “The Tower”. Quite a gentle, easy rhythm with just a hint of melancholy, it features an amazing guitar solo at just over the halfway mark and is reminiscent of a classic track from yesteryear.
Following on, the catchy, upbeat “Crossed Over”, is a total contrast in style and features elements of rock/southern rock as well as blues. Not one to draw parallels unless it’s absolutely necessary, this was the first song in which I remarked that vocalist Ray “Rafer John” Cerbone sounded strikingly similar to the late Jim Morrison. The similarity continues with “The Devil in Me”, a classic rock/blues melody with atmospheric, memorable lyrics and a groove which showcases the talents of bassist Brian Carpenter.
The penultimate track “Blues Cross” starts off as a stunning acoustic number in traditional blues style, picking up tempo with the introduction of percussion and thereafter electric guitar. Even with the addition of electric this song never gets very heavy or complex and interestingly the last minute or so are given over to what can be best described as tribal percussion. Although this would have been a perfect finisher, the perhaps more aptly titled bonus track “When the Musics Over” says it all really. A lengthy tune which is undeniably in the style of The Doors, both lyrically and musically the sound is so similar and familiar that I could scarce tell the difference.
The Apocalypse Blues Revue is a jam packed blues album with a definitive edge. The edge, in my opinion, is courtesy of vocalist Ray (Rafer John Cerbone). He doesn’t have a voice that naturally “fits” with the blues and it had to grow on me somewhat, but yet he makes it work and makes it distinct. With both Tony Rombola and Shannon Larkin still being listed as active members of Godsmack, it remains to be seen if this welcome deviation will be a one off experimentation or an ongoing side project, the latter I hope.
To answer my earlier question regarding originality, I conclude that if you’re really loving the music it doesn’t matter a bit if you have heard it all before. And anyway, I love discovering old music which is new to me, and new music which sounds old to me…
Review: Karen Hetherington