Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Inglorious' 'Inglorious' - Album Review

New bands released via Frontiers Records are often so contrived that they are just not worth checking out. Their want to release songs from a few of their key in-house songwriters under various different band names makes me wary of any band on their label that I am not already familiar with. Frontiers is great at releasing albums from older bands that other, bigger labels may not be that interested in any more, but their numerous projects and 'supergroups' are getting fairly tedious now. This is why, when I first heard and read about Inglorious, that my interest was piqued. I was initially disappointed however, and after watching the video for lead single Until I Die on Youtube I dismissed the band as another classic rock throwback that were lacking in the songwriting department. A few weeks later however, something made me watch the EPK for their self-titled debut album on Youtube, and the musical snippets sounded very strong. I also enjoyed hearing the band members talking about their songs, and 'their' songs is correct. This album is written by the band, and Frontiers Records' usual songwriters are not anywhere to be found. There are a few co-writes by other, more famous, musicians; but by and large the bulk of the songwriting has been done by the band. Led by frontman Nathan James, who has previously worked with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Uli Jon Roth, Inglorious have written songs based around the tried-and-tested 1970s bluesy hard rock format. James' voice is the band's secret weapon however, and he soars throughout the album. Guitarists Andreas Eriksson (Crazy Lixx) and Wil Taylor had clearly been listening to their favourite classic albums while writing and recording Inglorious. While so many modern rock bands go for the single guitar approach, Inglorious realise the power and diversity that the twin guitar attack can bring. Both riff and solo throughout, and the sound is fantastic. Bassist Colin Parkinson and drummer Phil Beaver make up the rhythm section, and they pack a punch like no other. So often, modern drums can sound a little processed (which often sounds good, this is no general criticism) but Beaver's booming assault brings back rock's heyday again. Keyboards are played by Liam Holmes on a session basis, but a permanent keyboardist may help expand the band's sound further. Holmes' playing does add plenty of colour throughout however, and shows what they could do if they expanded their use of the instrument. While Inglorious is never going to be a classic, and does not the touch the bands and albums it was clearly modeled on, it is really enjoyable piece of work from a young band just starting out on their hopefully long and successful journey.

After a roaring hammond organ intro, that actually sounds a little like Deep Purple's Highway Star in places, the muscular riff of single Until I Die comes out of the speakers to announce this album in strong fashion. After my initial dismissal of the song (and band) I have come to realise that this is a strong tune, despite the slightly generic feel of the piece. The 1970s blues rock feel is captured perfectly however, with the main riff leading the song throughout. James dominates the song though, with a good vocal performance. He has quite an impressive range, and always steals the show when he sings. Despite Until I Die being more well-known, the following few numbers are actually much better. Breakaway is a great upbeat number, with a fast riff and bursts of hammond organ. There is something about Mk. III Deep Purple here, with James sounding like a mixture of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. The lead guitar skills of Eriksson and Taylor are first given a real showcase on this song, with plenty of little bursts of lead riffing, and an explosive solo towards the middle of the piece that will no doubt see plenty of air guitaring a the band's live shows. The classy blues of High Flying Gypsy is up next. This mid-paced rocker, with crunching guitar rhythms and a rumbling bassline, is packed with serious attitude. Co-written with Al Pitrelli (Asia; Savatage; Trans-Siberian Orchestra; Megadeth), the song is probably the first on the album that really blows you away. It has a bit of everything that makes rock music great, and James once again nails the vocals. It has a certain epic feel about it that the rest of the album is lacking, and shows the band at their most creative. Those who love the blues will love the slow-burning Holy Water which is another stand-out song. There is a little of The Black Crowes and Free on display here, with subtle verses led by a bluesy guitar line and a soaring, gospel-inspired chorus. Rather unsurprisingly, there is a big guitar solo section in this song. It starts off slow, before the band picks up the pace and the solo speeds up accordingly. It is an explosive moment, equalled only by James' sustained high note that he belts out not long after the solo's conclusion. Opening with a percussive rhythm and some big slide guitar notes, Warning initially deceives with this blues opening before exploding into a fast rocker with some excellent high vocals from James. After two more mid-paced songs, a good in-your-face rocker is a welcome sight. It is a short song, but it certainly packs a punch and showcases the band's heavier side. Bleed for You has a bit of a ballad vibe, but it still rocks out. A 'hands in the air' chorus is the song's centre piece, but the bleeding guitar solo, that sounds a little like Slash, also stands out. The slight wah effect on the solo makes it really enjoyable to listen to, and the piano chords that cut through the mix towards the end add something a little different to the piece.

Girl Got a Gun, another Pitrelli co-write, is another song with a strong blues flavour. While the lyrics are pretty clunky, James still manages to lay down a commanding vocal performance. The song's chorus is rather anthemic too, with a big keyboard backing and some silky smooth vocal melodies. There is another fantastic guitar solo on this song too, something which is a bit of recurring theme throughout the album! You're Mine, co-written by Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger; Trans-Siberian Orchestra; Whitesnake), is a riffy rocker with probably the heaviest riff on the album. The staccato rhythms are infectious, and the atmospheric mid-section provides a nice change of pace. Again, the song possesses a strong chorus. James hits possibly the highest notes of the album in the final run through of it, and it actually sounds a little strange. I am not sure those notes were really necessary, but he is one hell of a singer! Inglorious, the band's self-titled song, is something a little different. A slow, heavy riff makes up the song's backbone, but James' effects-heavy vocals and some strange keyboards provide the main melodies in the song's intro. When he starts to sing properly, the song get going, although it always maintains a rather strange vibe. I am not sure if I like the song or not, and either way it stands out like a sore thumb. There is a nice neo-classical guitar instrumental section mid-way through that then leads into an atmospheric, bass-led section. This slight prog feel is not in keeping with the rest of the album, but it does seem to work somewhat. Wake is the album's only true ballad, and it is a good one. Delicate acoustic guitar melodies form the basis of the song, and the ringing chords mixed with James' powerful voice is a good combination. James does not really tone it down at all here, although his verse deliver uses his lower register a lot more. He really lets rip in the chorus however, and actually manages to overpower everything else. I like the song however, and a great bluesy guitar solo is the icing on the cake. It has a slight country tinge to it too, and something of Guns N' Roses ballad solos, but it works really well. There is a beautiful, but lengthy, piano outro on the song too, which sets things up perfectly for the next number. The dark rock of Unaware is the album's final song. John Mitchell (Arena; Kino; Frost*; It Bites), who also mixed the album, co-wrote this riff-heavy rocker, and it is perfect as a closing number. The main riff is one of the album's best, and the big verse drumming really ramps up the power considerably. There is time for one more strong chorus on this album, and this song delivers with a slight howl of an offering, but it works within the darker context of the song. There is some shredding guitar soloing here too, something not used that much elsewhere in the album. Overall, Inglorious is a strong debut album from the new rock band. There is definite room for improvement, but the results so far are impressive. I really want to see the band live to see what they are like on stage, as I think that they would be excellent!

The album was released on 19th February 2016 via Frontiers Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Until I Die.

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