Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 6 Feb 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website
If you haven't figured out Razzmattazz's chief inspiration after about two seconds of opening track A Gun for Hire, then you just haven't been paying attention. If these Stuttgart rockers hadn't released four award-winning albums (the new one was winning more before it even came out), I'd wonder if they were an AC/DC tribute band performing lost Bon Scott songs from an alternate universe. Someone tell me that this and Drive-By Shooter aren't unrecorded songs scavenged from the Powerage sessions!
Razzmattazz claim three influences on their Bandcamp page, AC/DC being an unsurprising first. The second is ZZ Top and that's obvious on Cold Rain, which ditches AC/DC for a moment in favour of the Texan trio. ZZ Top are also overt on Lawbreaker, which also betrays a third unacknowledged source of musical inspiration, namely fellow Germans Accept, and here's where the band get a little more interesting.
Drive-By Shooter isn't just AC/DC influenced, it sounds just like AC/DC. It's the most obvious AC/DC song not recorded by AC/DC since Dirty Looks recorded Oh Ruby. Cold Rain sounds just like ZZ Top with the differences in vocals explained away by modern production. And Going Down sounds just like Balls to the Wall era Accept, right down to its chugging guitar and its audience participation singalong section.
And, frankly, that's pretty much all you need to know. If you're digging on the idea of new music that sounds like Accept, AC/DC and ZZ Top, this will be right up your alley.
By comparison, Lawbreaker doesn't sound like any of them individually and that's an important difference for a band who don't want to become known as a clone. Lawbreaker sounds like Accept were happily recording a ZZ Top song when Bon Scott wandered over from a neighbouring studio to jam with them and they liked it so much that it made it onto the album. It's a wild combination in my book. Wolle Heleck adds some extra rasp to evoke Udo Dirkschneider and Peter Ucik's bass echoes Dusty Hill gloriously. Sure, it's parallel universe weirdness but it's good parallel universe weirdness.
The third influence the band does cite is NWOBHM generally and I can, erm, accept that, but I'm not hearing anyone specific. For instance, there's no Diamond Head, Iron Maiden or Def Leppard to be found on any of these ten tracks. There's no Saxon, no Girlschool and certainly no Venom. Frankly, I caught a lot more glam rock instead, because the title track has a notable Hanoi Rocks vibe to it, as if it's LA-style hair metal recorded by a band who aren't remotely from LA but know the style even better than the bands who were born and bred there.
That Hanoi Rocks sound helps to avoid a crack like Razzmattazz being '80s rock not from A to Z but from A and Z because that's unfair. These are all original songs and they're upbeat and worthy, even if their inspirations are completely transparent. I enjoyed the whole album and I bet they kick serious ass on stage. And hey, could that cover image be more gloriously eighties if it tried? I just wish they could find a way to combine their influences into something new.