Shape Of Blues To Come The Apocalypse Blues Revue

Following 2016s self-titled debut, Godsmack’s Shannon Larkin and Tony Rombola have teamed up with Brian Carpenter under the name of The Apocalypse Blues Revue. This time they have on board a new singer that Larkin met and became friends with in a biker bar…step forward Ray ‘Rafer John’ Cerbone. Neither knew of the others musical leanings until much later and their first performances together were in the studio as they started laying down what was to become The Shape Of Blues To Come. That is either an arrogant title or maybe, just maybe, it may actually be prophetic. So, what do we get on this latest offering from the Godsmack heavyweights? Well, imagine a futuristic mixing board where old blues, new blues, heavy rock, metal, roots and psychedelia are thrown in with some grit, attitude and a ‘who cares’ approach and it would spit out this very different kind of blues delivery.  The guys would also admit, I think, that this is only a step in the development of their shade of blue and there is still a long way to travel as it grows and morphs continually from album to album.

First track, Open Spaces, seems designed to lull the listener into a laid-back mood as the gentle cymbals and ‘Pink Panther’ rhythm over a lovely picked guitar back Cerbone’s Jim Morrison vocals…but then it builds into true heavy blues of quiet to loud and Rombola inserts a solo which is executed and paced perfectly. We Are The One, in my mind, explains the whole ethos of this album…it opens with an almost gothic feel and the slide guitar is tremendous; the tempo change makes me think of Gilmore playing Money, but it is different and better than that! It is a masterpiece of new (not neu) blues. It all just works brilliantly…imagine the Doors doing Pink Floyd doing a traditional field song, and you are getting close to the genius on display here. Hell To Pay comes next with a song that will bring SRV and/or Trower to mind in its construct but, with Cerbone’s deep vocals and a cracking solo it is all Apocalypse. Have You Heard delivers the band’s raison d’être, as they state “Have you heard the news, the Apocalypse is coming, and it ain’t your daddy’s blues.” The rolling bass and staccato chords may evoke Baby Please Don’t Go, but it remains unique with the band purposely using differing blues standard approaches to build a new sound. The soloing is superb and even the inclusion of a surf sound over the drums make the whole rapid shuffle a delight. To Hell With You has a steamy intro and blues riffing over adroit bass and drums, as the vocals tell a story not obvious from the title and we get a great solo too. Another shuffle heralds Nobody Rides For Free that has clever slow bass and double-time drums as the guitar speaks volumes over more gruff vocals. Sincere has an SRV hue with a spoken and sung lyric…it is the weakest song here by dint of it being the most standard and obvious blues song although it is still a damn good listen. The best of the lot is the eight-minute-plus What A Way To Go. Multi-tracked vocals and delicious picking open and close a slow and smouldering blues…this time, imagine The Doors doing Free (Tons of Sobs) and just relax into the guitar phrasing that has flourishes aplenty but also knows when to leave the gaps. The delicate final track, Noumenal Blues, is short but very sweet. It also has the benefit of Nancy Koerner adding to the smoky vocals and guitar. The electric slide over the acoustic adds buckets of atmosphere until, after a long silence the band end with a noisy splash thus reaffirming that this band approach everything differently.

So, to answer my own question…The Shape Of Blues To Come is no arrogant statement nor is it entirely prophetic. This is a band however that is definitely transforming the tropes of traditional blues into something that is so very nearly new. If (and I fervently hope they do) they continue with this ‘side project’ and they continue to inject their unique take on some of those traditions, then I know it will keep on getting even better. Take your time to let this soak in…some may be tempted to think of it as too much Doors (equally some may welcome the Jim Morrison overtones), but if you can absorb the complexity of every member’s input and listen to them individually and as one, you will grow to adore this album as much as I have.

TENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Open Spaces
  2. We Are One
  3. Hell To Pay
  4. Have You Heard?
  5. To Hell With You
  6. Nobody Rides For Free
  7. Sincere
  8. What A Way To Go
  9. Noumenal Blues

Musicians:
Shannon Larkin: drums
Tony Rombola: guitar
Brian Carpenter: bass
Ray Cerbone: vocals
Nancy Koerner: vocals on Noumenal Blues

Shape Of Blues To Come The Apocalypse Blues Revue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.