Federal Charm – Passenger Review

A Nuanced Masterpiece...

Released by: Wire-Sound

Release Date: September 14, 2018

Genre: Blues-Rock

Links:  https://www.federalcharm.com

Line Up:

  • Tom Guyer, – Vocals,
  • Paul Bowe, – Guitars,
  • L.D. Morawski, – Bass,
  • Josh Zahler, – Drums,


  1. Swing Sinner
  2. Choke
  3. Emerald Haze
  4. Death Rattle
  5. Nowhere is Home
  6. Get Through
  7. Concrete Creature
  8. Can’t Rule Me
  9. Halo
  10. Speak Out
  11. Parting Words

The third album from this Manchester quartet is a bombastic blues-rock bonanza, which is a joy for the earholes. With new frontman Tom Guyer, Federal Charm have matured into a force to be reckoned with, and their new album Passenger is absolutely magnificent. Deciding to push the envelope and use Tom’s vocal prowess to its fullest extent, Federal Charm has transcended their established sound and it has evolved into a heavier and at times darker tone than previous albums. Tom’s sublime vocals lift the expert musicianship of the band, and will no doubt get Federal Charm a significant amount of attention once they take the album on the road.

Opening track “Swing Sinner” is a tragic tale about abuse and injustice, and the tone of the song is suitably dark and gritty. The tense and pointed rhythm of Bowe’s riffs, coupled with the angry groove of Morawski’s basslines and Zahler’s booming drums are pierced by Guyer’s haunting vocals which cut right through to the heart of song. The first single off the album “Choke” is one of four semi-autobiographical songs on Passenger, inspired by moments in Guyer’s life. With a Zepplinesque start-stop rhythm, the vocals are in the driving seat as Guyer regales us with a story about a guy whose perceived privilege gets the better of him.

With a similar theme, “Can’t Rule Me” rails against people who use lies and manipulation to get their way in the world. The other songs in this grouping, “Nowhere is Home”, “Get Through”, and “Halo” touch on turning points in his life. Having moved frequently when I was growing up, “Nowhere is Home” resonated with me. It truly sets a desolate mood, with the interchanging guitar and basslines painting a surreal atmosphere that connect you to the dislocated feeling the lyrics convey. By contrast “Get Through” cuts a heavy groove that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Rival Sons album, while “Halo” plays out with an upbeat and catchy tempo that will certainly make it a radio favourite.

“Death Rattle” is a harrowingly powerful song about the closure of music venues in the name of progress, a story close to any musician and avid gig-goer’s heart. The song closes with an instrumental section which truly relates a sense of loss through the clever use of dissonant sound and echo effects. “Concrete Creature” opens with a real Delta-Blues inspired acoustic riff and drum rhythm, which explodes into what is one of the heaviest tracks on the album. Teasing us with pacing changes, acoustic fills, and mesmerising lyrics, this track is a wakeup call for people blind to the destruction nature in the name of profit and power. Staying with this theme, “Speak Out” criticises government for its failure to meet the needs of its people. An aptly hard-hitting song, the crunchy riffs, dirty bass, and thundering drums converge on Guyer’s scorching vocals like the rallying cry of a revolution.

“Emerald Haze” is an atmospheric song about love lost, and the pain and jealousy of seeing your former lover moving on without you. The layered sound of the track builds from the stripped back intro, and culminates in an edgy rhythm. In a similar vein, closing track “Parting Words” is a down-tempo track with psychedelic riffs and a brooding rhythm that builds throughout the body of the song as it rolls through its discordant vibe towards its inevitable crescendo. Given its themes about the breakdown of a relationship and its ensuing divorce, the outstanding quality of the production values of this track reverberate with a melancholy character captured in the haunting vocals and unrelenting rhythm of the song. It is one of the standout tracks on the album and brings it to a prefect close.

Recorded at the Willow Terrace Studio in Manchester, the band co-produced the album with the help of John Simms of Hidden Colour Audio. Discussing the production of the album, guitarist Paul Bowe stated that, “John was really good to work with, as he’s highly technical, has a great set of ears and commands an invaluable ability to locate and add that missing ingredient to make a song stand out from the crowd.” The quality of the album certainly reflects such a diligent attention to detail and rounds out the sound and feel of Passenger with masterful effect. From end to end, Passenger is just simply superb and is best enjoyed with the volume cranked to eleven. It is truly a nuanced masterpiece that stands out against the crowd in the ever expanding British blues-rock scene.  If this is a representation of what this new configuration are capable of producing, then I most certainly want to hear more.

Ratings: 10/10

Written by: Erik De’Viking

My Global Mind –Reviewer / Music Journalist

Socials: Twitter: @Erik_DeViking Instagram: @Erik_DeViking Last.FM: @Erik_DeViking Spotify: Erik De’Viking

Erik De’Viking is a freelance music journalist based in the South of England. His musical interests include rock and metal in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.

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