I am sure you have heard of Hollowstar as they have appeared (favourably) in the pages of Classic Rock magazine and the airwaves of Radio 2 (on their rock show, I hasten to add) and on Planet Rock. This is a significant achievement as, until now, that hype only surrounded the band’s single, All I Gotta Say, although the EP they released caused a stir among the cognoscenti. They now have a full album on release, called imaginatively Hollowstar. Does it live up to the buzz that ensued the single release? Well, as they cite Thunder, Slash and Black Stone Cherry as major influences and, as the band says, “We’ve drawn on our own experiences, and what we’ve learned on the road with people like Graham Bonnet Band, Stone Broken and more and created something that is unique. We’re proud of the album and can’t wait to play this music to even more music fans”. Based on that, surely the portents are good.
Well, the ten tracks on offer certainly show a band that knows the way around their respective instruments and equally adept twin guitars top off the strong rhythm section. Joe can also sing really well in a variety of styles and, although his bass playing style reminds me of Burke Shelley, his voice is a bit more, shall we say, traditional. It all kicks off, literally, with Take It All…a twin-guitar attack introduces this now-familiar song and it quickly develops into a solid rocker to suit most rocker’s tastes. I won’t dwell on that however as the rest of the album, in my opinion, eclipses that ‘written as a single’ single feel. Next track, Let You Down, is more riff-based and the Danny-ish vocals are replaced by Joe’s own voice, all backed by a hefty blues-based backing from the band and an inventive, subtle and well-played solo. Invincible is melodic rock but with a heavier riff than that description conjures. Another tasty (non-shred) solo follows and shows the depth of skills in the twin guitars of Phil and Tom. Think Of Me is a slower, bluesier song and is all the more powerful and memorable for it: the more subtle background riff and the brilliant drumming make this one a standout because of the careful, thoughtful and well-crafted melodies. The simple guitar duets halfway through and, too briefly, at the close adds atmosphere. Money is a corker; the guitar phrasing, the lyrical melody and pace changes all add up to a very strong true rock song that puts many so-called established bands to shame…and that’s achieved in under three minutes. All I Gotta Say follows a similar path and brings an edge even to the sing-a-long chorus; plus, it has a catchy, infectious pattern throughout that stays long after the track has finished. Good Man Gone is even heavier and has a guitar solo of real quality. Phil and Tom really show on this how two guitars can be used to good effect by not just harmonizing or warring, but by playing together in a way that works so much better. Overrated again shows a blues shuffle influence in the heavy riff and a bridge section where the hi-hat counters and supports the great soling from the guitars. Down By The Water is my favourite at the moment…the rhythm section is solid as the blues riff pulls everything together and then simplifies behind the great vocals in a clever and effective way. Guess what? The solo is superb as it starts low down the neck and then spoils it by not being long enough! The final track, Sinner, wraps it up in fine heavy rock style. Any song that includes lines like “I love the leather and lace; I love your sister when she’s dressed like a whore” runs the risk of opprobrium but when you listen to rest, it is obviously tongue in cheek.
This is a stunning debut from a band that oozes quality and, I am sure, they will only get better. The style may appear to some to be following other bands but I honestly think the buck that trend and have the capacity and capability to make the next album even more individual. This may not be blues, but there is blues aplenty behind the quality heavy rock on offer…give it a try.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Take It All
- Let You Down
- Think Of Me
- All I Gotta Say
- Good Man Gone
- Down By The Water
Musicians:Joe Bonson: vocals, bass Jack Bonson: drums Phil Haines: guitar Tom Collett: guitar