You know you’re in for some Rock with a capital R when you see the skeletal figure on the cover and the brooding image of the band gathered around a Mad Max style car; add in a name that screams heavy rock and Nightblade is the result.
This new album, Ignorance Is Bliss, is the third album from the Midlands-based band with a slightly different but hopefully, stable line up. They seem to have been associated with the ‘Alternative’ label but, to me, there is more of an 80s heavy rock vein to their sound and they certainly aren’t as one dimensional as a lot of Alt. rock bands tend to be. If you are new to the band then I would counsel you to listen to the first and title track last…it is still a bangin’ track but the semi-spoken vocal style could be off-putting until you get used to Mark Crosby’s styles.
After a couple of plays, however, you can see why he went this way and it is a definite grower. Track two, Steering The Wheel, is a mid-tempo rock song that develops really well and, after the bridge, gets even heavier. This is like an Atkins era Priest…almost sparse but with real depth behind the catchy riff; it has a touch of grunge to it when the riff speeds up but that doesn’t spoil it and only a guitar solo could have improved it. Only You starts with a meaty bass that plays with the melody of the preceding song and blends the two together rather neatly. It has its roots in a blues-based riff but seriously heavied up and after a Van Halen-ish bridge, I was expecting some soloing but that was not to be. Never Take For Granted is next and starts off like Alice Cooper’s early stuff…it develops into a weighty, riff-based song that is the early favourite…it may be over seven minutes but the mark of a strong composition is that it doesn’t seem that long.
Then, at last, we get some guitar soloing that is clever, phased, imaginative, and way too short. What If has engines and chain saws then a toilet flushing (no, me neither) before the bass cuts in with a neat syncopated drum pattern behind it. The funky feeling stays when the chords come in but manages to be heavy too as the vocal is reminiscent of the Velvet Underground…to my ear anyway. The guitar solo is worth the wait even if it is lamentably short…a theme methinks! Further From The Truth is Priest-ish again with twin guitar intro with a mildly commercial feel that equates to catchy and a sing-a-long chorus adds to that…not a bad thing, I hasten to add. Take Me As I Am has that grungy touch but doesn’t descend into it too much; the short guitar solo also lifts it above the norm.
Immune To It All is later Alice this time as the picked chords of the intro is joined with thudding bass and drums before the tempo changes and reminds me of the great Pallas in its heaviness but with a lightness of touch. Find The Strength Within starts like ballad of old but with electric punctuation, before the main riff hits and puts weight behind the balladic vocals. The final track, Stop, isn’t the Sam Brown covered by Joey B song…it’s a pacy rocker with a great bass-driven riff and is high energy and fitting way to wrap up the album…think Di’Anno Maiden in feel.
The album as a whole is like listening to the early days of the NWOBHM but with some newer tinges of 80s rock in there too. It is entertaining from start to finish and my only moan will come as no surprise…as a guitar freak/geek, I just felt that the running times should have allowed much more in the way of solos to generate even more variation and panache. That’s just me…you may feel differently if you give them a listen. I bet they are a blast live and that their next album will be even better if they remain stable.
Bluesdoodles rating: Great listening for those that pine for NWOBHM and want an up to date, melodic and above all, heavy version.
- Ignorance Is Bliss
- Steering The Wheel
- Only You
- Never Take For Granted
- What If
- Further From The Truth
- Take Me As I Am
- Immune To It All
- Find The Strength Within
Mark Crosby: vocals
Sam Morse: guitars
Tim Cutcliffe: bass
Richard Lawley: drums, keyboards, guitar
Recorded at The Old Smithy, Worcester and produced by Nightblade and Richard Wood
(The iTunes run on track delivered some trippy psyche from the original Nirvana who were, IMHO, way better than the band that adopted the name much later. Rainbow Chaser was released in 1968 and embodies that time so well…always worth a listen.)