Thursday, 7 May 2015

Jettblack's 'Disguises' - Album Review

In the rising crop of new British hard rock bands, Jettblack were one of the first to get attention. Their debut album Get Your Hands Dirty was released in 2010 and received good reviews across the rock world. All the elements that make hard rock music great were present: heavy riffs, big choruses, and flashy solos; all wrapped up in a contemporary, sleazy package. Touring with bands like Heaven's Basement around this time helped to increase their fanbase, and rockers started to take them to heart. Their second album Raining Rock came in 2012. Whilst there are some great songs on that album, I felt it paled in comparison to Get Your Hands Dirty. Generally though, the album was again pretty popular within the rock community; and a tour at the time with Crashdïet showed that they were still a great live band. The last couple of years have been quiet for Jettblack however, and it was easy to forget about them. By then bands like Heaven's Basement, Glamour of the Kill, and others have taken over as leading bands in the new British hard rock and metal scene and it seems that Jettblack had failed to capitalise on their early momentum. Even with a Pledge Music campaign set up to help fund the band's third album, I often forget about the band despite ordering a copy of the upcoming album. Seemingly no longer supported by Spinefarm Records, the band decided to crowdfund their third album, which appears to have worked well. Although it probably took them longer to record and produce the album this way, the results have been very good. I was reminded of the band again last year when I saw the band support Winger, and I was seriously impressed with them again. Apart from the sporadic email updates from the Pledge campaign, this was the first thing I had heard from the band since seeing them with Crashdïet - I do not think I had even listened to their albums since. They played two new songs that night with Winger, and it really got me in the mood for their upcoming album. Well, many months later, that album - now called Disguises - is finally here! While I was initially disappointed in the apparent change of sound, I have grown to really enjoy this album over the repeated listens. Albums often get called 'mature', which sometimes translates to being 'less fun', but there is something about Disguises that is mature, and it actually benefits the overall sound. This album still rocks hard, but leaves some of the sleaze trappings behind for a more grown up and adult rock sound.

The album kicks off with the hard-rocking Slaves that, after a slow-burning intro, is a riff-heavy piece that harks back to the heavier side of the band's debut album. The dual-vocal attack of Will Stapleton and Jon Dow is as strong as ever. I have never been versed enough in the band to tell the difference between the two singers, as they often trade off vocals mid-song, but both have strong voices and sound great together. Slaves has a solid feel to it, with a melodic hard-hitting chorus and an energetic breakdown towards the end that builds and builds until exploding into another excellent riff and vocal refrain. Explode was the song the band chose to film a video for, so has been available online for some time now. It is atypical for the band, opening with a very simple vocal/guitar combination that lacks the brashness the band is known for. By the time the band reaches the chorus however, the song opens out some more into a bigger beast that features a grinding riff and a powerful vocal delivery. There is some really excellent riffing later on in the song that sees Stapleton and Dow locked in together well while drummer Matt Oliver lays down an off-kilter beat. Poison Rain is more typical of the band. A mid-paced, groove-focused song; it really takes off after a moody intro. Tom Wright's bass guitar leads the verses with some tight basslines that weave around the simple chugging guitar, and the chorus has a real Aerosmith vibe with some snaking riffs and expressive vocals. Midway through the song, we get the first real taste of the band's lead guitar skills on this album, with some subtle shredded lines, and an atmospheric section that has quite a progressive feel to it. Evidence builds on the moody nature of parts of the previous song and takes it further. There is more than a hint of Alice in Chains in this song; from the punchy bassline in the song's intro, to the swirling harmonised vocals in the verses. It is a slower, doomier song than the band are used to writing, but it works fantastically. The chorus ups the energy a bit with some robotic vocal lines, but the strength of this song lies in those atmospheric verses. The album's title track follows which again features some prominent bass guitar work and a hooky chorus that is definitely reminiscent of the band's earlier work. It is a simple song, but it works well mid-album to bring back the 1980s influenced hard rock after a couple of more experimental pieces. Broken Bones follows in a similar vein and was one of the songs played on that tour with Winger. It is a simple, riff-based rocker that does not deviate hugely form the band's historic template. The chorus here packs a real punch, as does the shredded guitar solo towards the end of the piece, that reminds us what great players Stapleton and Dow are.

Black & White is the album's first and only proper ballad. Like some of the previous songs here, it has quite a moody overall feel but with the slightly anthemic vibe that all good power ballads have. The chorus is very catchy with a hypnotic vocal melody and guitar backing that creates real atmosphere. It is quite a short song, but it helps to break up the pace of the songs mid-album and gives us a bit of a rest from all the heavy rocking. Kick in the Teeth is the other song I heard the band play on the tour with Winger, and it is probably the best pure rock song showcased on this album. It has some great harmonised riffing, and a furious verse that steams along with some gritty vocals. This is a real rock song, that has real attitude behind it and enough catchy melodies to get you singing along. There is some great, squealing hard rock guitar throughout and a brilliant solo that will take the roof off a live venue. If the band want to film another video for this album, then this song has to be the one! Enemy again makes a bit of a return to the moodier feel of the album's early songs. The mid-paced rocking intro soon gives way to a gentler verse with some excellent clean guitar arpeggios. The song's smooth choruses are also very good, with some solid vocal lines; and there is another good solo here, but this one focuses on melody rather than speed. The album's penultimate track Human is another real winner. The song's main riff is absolutely huge, and the chorus is quite possibly the best on the whole album. The way the tortured guitar leads cut through the lead vocals throughout the chorus also reminds me a little of Alice in Chains, but the song's faster pace gives the overall song a much greater hard rock feel than that. Mid-song however, the song does descend back into that slightly progressive sphere with an atmospheric and some spacey effects on the vocals. I really hope this song becomes a live staple for the band, as it really rocks and has a chorus big enough to pack out stadiums. Smoke & Mirrors is the album's final song, and it has a slower epic tempo that brings out the best of the vocals. Once again, the band have written a really solid chorus for the song, that forces it's way out the speakers as jangly guitars sit nicely behind it. The song becomes a bit of a riff-feast towards the end as the song builds around an ascending guitar pattern and some big chords. The final go around of the chorus is triumphant and brings the album to a powerful close. Overall, Disguises is a great album from the band. I quickly got over my initial disappointment and have grown to love this new, mature style from Jettblack. Hopefully their other fans will agree, and I hope the band will tour it extensively in the future.

The album was released on 6th April 2015 via Cherry Red Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Explode.


No comments:

Post a Comment