Thursday, 31 July 2014

Night by Night's 'NxN' - Album Review

I find it strange when people say that there are very few decent new rock bands out there. Just because something is not all over the popular media does not mean that it does not exist, and the search for new bands can be very rewarding. Night by Night are the latest new hard rock band to really excite me and their debut album NxN was released earlier this month. Counting Def Leppard's Rick Savage among their fans, Night by Night create extremely catchy and melodic hard rock songs with a heavy 1980s vibe. Founded by guitarist Ben Christo (The Sisters of Mercy), Night by Night are a far cry from what should probably be considered his 'day job'. There are no synthesisers, gothic overtones or drum machines here - this is guitar driven hard rock with strong vocal melodies and plenty of big vocal harmonies provided by Christo and bass player Jonny Thornton. Henry Rundell (Voodoo Six; Goddass) handles the lead vocals and it is awesome to see him back in a band. I am a huge fan of his work on Voodoo Six's debut album First Hit for Free and their headline gig in Plymouth in 2008 was one of the best 'small' gigs I have ever been to. Obviously Rundell and Voodoo Six parted ways not long after that tour finished and not much has been heard from him since, so it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered Night by Night last year. Looking at the album's writing credits, it looks as if all the material was written before Rundell joined the band, with previous frontman Daniel Rossall credited with co-writing the majority of the songs on this album, but I feel that Rundell has still managed to put his stamp on this album. His distinctive voice sounds as good as every and his performance here is very strong. I like the fact that despite this album is very melodic in a 1980s hard rock way, the production is still very raw. There are not layers of keyboards to add extra depth to the songs; this is just three voices, two guitars, one bass guitar and one drum kit working well together to create solid tunes. Sometimes a huge production works, but this album proves that you can strip things down and still create music that sounds lush but also retains the hard rock grit. Romesh Dodangoda should be applauded for getting this sound out of the band, as his production job is excellent. It really gives the album a unique feel and sets it apart from their peers.

Time to Escape kicks things off in true hard rock style with a heavy riff and Rundell's slightly angsty vocal delivery. This a real heads down rocking number and gets the album off to a really good start. Rundell really soars in the catchy chorus helped out by Christo and Thornton's excellent harmony vocals. The riffs that follow the choruses are just technical enough to be interesting and Christo and fellow guitarist Tom Daniel impress in a short instrumental section. This is probably the heaviest song on the album, and it works well to grab your attention right from the outset. Holding Onto Holding On opens with a solid, groove-based riff that leads into a powerful verse with subtle guitar leads that sit just underneath the vocals to add extra colour. The chorus is another melodic one with some really simple drumming from Damien Diablo adding a slight swing to the proceedings. Can't Walk Away sounds like early Def Leppard. There is a huge Pyromania vibe running through this song with plenty of tight harmony vocals and really simple guitar leads that say more with a few notes than some more complex pieces. Rundell sounds excellent as always here and the choruses are once again big and the centrepiece of the song. A short guitar solo adds flair with plenty of shredding before the heavy AOR returns for the end. Everywhere Tonight slows things down a little but retains that Def Leppard vibe. This time it is more Hysteria than Pyromania though as the slow burning guitar leads and gentle verses recall the 1980s legends at their chart-topping best. There is still a raw swagger about it though, and a  stomping middle eight section helps keep the song from becoming to sweet. The guitar solo here is probably the best on the album so far and retains plenty of melody. It is a really excellent ballad that still manages to retain the rawness of the rest of the album. Siren gets back to the rock with a pumping riff and some more sinister edges with sparing use of samples. There is definitely a metal vibe about this song but every so often a nice guitar lead cuts through the crunching chords to remind you which band you are listening too. This is definitely a song that grows on you over repeated listens as when I first heard this album it did not really do anything for me at all. It is infectious though, and over time you will grow to like it.

A Thousand Lies is more akin to the album's first three songs. The chorus is a real sing-a-long moment with all three vocalists harmonising well to create a big sound. The guitar tone and patterns here have a very sleazy hair metal sound to them giving this song more of an edge than the Def Leppard-esque ones previously. This sound continues into the next song It's Not Faith which opens with an almost AC/DC-style riff with some big pounding bass from Thornton. The chorus is more of anthemic fist-pumper than a melodic sing-a-long fest which helps to mix things up a bit and create some variation. This is a real ballsy rock song that will satisfy those who prefer things a bit more primal. The Moment was the first full song I heard by the band when the video was released last year and it was one I often returned to on Youtube while waiting for this album to released. The verses are quite a downer before the big choruses picks up the pace again. The mix of emotions works well and Rundell sounds different but still very strong here. It is probably one of the most distinctive songs on the album and might confuse at first but the infectious tight melodies will get to you in the end. If Only has another Def Leppard-esque opening with some simple, repeating guitar leads and it features a really lush chorus. There is a really simple guitar solo too that slowly builds over a really rhythmic backing and never once loses sight of the song's main melody. The album's closing number, Never Die Again, is probably the most interesting song on the album. It is not as big of a tune of many of the preceding numbers, but there is something haunting and quite original about it. The song builds up slowly with Rundell's echoey vocals over some distant clean guitar patterns before exploding into another really solid rock number that is built on a few really good riffs. A really big chorus is the centrepiece of the song and the riff that follows it is probably my favourite on the whole album. This is the closest that the band have to an 'epic' but it works very well to bring the album to a close and show off slightly more advanced songwriting and arrangement than some of the more catchier material. Overall, NxN is an excellent album that is sure to get a fair bit of attention in the hard rock world. I hope the band will get some good support slots off the back of this album as it deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. I look forward to hopefully seeing them live one day!

The album was released on 14th July 2014 via Sun Hill Productions. Below is the band's promotional video for A Thousand Lies.

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