Tuesday 20 August 2019

Picture - Wings (2019)

Country: Netherlands
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 16 Aug 2019
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Featuring such a generic name that it's easy to overlook them, Picture are a long lived band nonetheless. They were formed in 1979, so they're over forty years old, but they haven't stayed together that long. They split up in 1987 and reformed in 1996, splitting again in 1999 without any new releases. They returned again, hopefully for good, in 2007 and this is their third album in the new millennium. It's also the fourth reunion for the original line up, a record perhaps only broken by Black Sabbath.

It's good old fashioned hard and heavy stuff, feeling very much like it was recorded way back at the beginning of the eighties. It's mostly upbeat, with some serious tracks like Stroke, about bass player Rinus Vreugdenhil, who had a stroke a few years ago but thankfully seems to be doing fine now and sounds pretty good on this album.

Line of Life opens things up as NWOBHM with a Dutch accent and I mean that quite literally, as Ronald van Prooijen clearly comes from the other side of the North Sea. It gallops along and sets the stage well for the rest of the album, even though there's a lot of variety here.

Wings plods a lot more, with a strong Deep Purple feel. Van Prooijen sounds more like Uli Jon Roth here but the Hammond organ is often very Jon Lord and the guitar is very Ritchie Blackmore. Little Annie starts out southern but adds in some old school Iron Maiden. And, by old school, I mean really old school, the punk attitude of the Paul Di'Anno era. That returns later with Empty Room, which is right there at the Di'Anno to Dickinson transition.

Blown Away is something I could have heard on the Friday Rock Show almost forty years ago. There are snippets that sound eerily familiar but I can't place them right now. It's not just British metal too, there's German here as well. No Place to Hide is kind of half Saxon, half Accept.

It's an interesting album and it's a deceptive one too. It doesn't stand out as great on a first listen and, in fact, it's the odd things that stand out. Is It Real starts with a scarily thin sound only to pump the bass up twenty seconds in, so that we know how far production has moved forward. There are no killer tracks to rave about either, or it doesn't seem like it. However, it's a consistently strong record that never lets up at all and it keeps on getting better with each listen.

Being a fortieth anniversary, there are lyrics here almost designed for the use of critics. Still Standing is an early Saxon style story song about the band itself, because they're still standing. It ends with "Keep going on!" and I can echo that. Even better, there's a lyric in Empty Room that has us visualise, "A torn picture. An empty frame. I hate but miss you just the same." Well, this is a freshly strong Picture. The frame isn't empty any more. And, while we don't hate, we don't have to miss Picture any more either.

This is an enjoyable album for the old school, who probably aren't going to care about that thick Dutch accent. Seeing this band live nowadays may well be the best way to revisit 1981 we'll have until they invent a time machine.

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