Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 14 Feb 2020
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Influences are fascinating things. There are many bands who sound like other bands because their influences are narrow enough for one to dominate. That's good for listeners because we quickly understand what they're doing and have reference points to judge their quality. Personally, I tend to prefer bands like Blackwater Conspiracy, who have so many influences that it's harder to place them within a framework of our musical experience. They're challenging because it's hard to initially grasp their sound but, once we do, it's often very rewarding indeed.
They're from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland but their influences seem to be mostly American, if not always directly. The root of their sound is very much in the blues but there's country and rock 'n' roll in there as well. If there's anything Irish here, it's Rory Gallagher, especially on the opener, Goodbye to Yesterday. I'm not hearing any Thin Lizzy here at all, no Mama's Boys and no Gary Moore, who are the others I thought I might find.
All Wired Wrong has a Thunder vibe to it, but as the album ran on, I started to hear more and more of a looser Australian take on Americana. That's most obvious in the vocals. Sometimes there's a little Bon Scott, once in a while a little Angry Anderson and rather often some Jimmy Barnes. Part of this may be the piano too, because Kevy Brennan ensures that, however big their sound gets and however big they get as a band, they'll still sound like they could just unload into the back of a pub and rock the place and every great Aussie rock band fits that bill, from AC/DC on down.
He gets to shape some of these songs too. The band's About page on Facebook tells us that he's classically trained but brought more of Jerry Lee Lewis and Jon Lord to their melting pot sound. I caught some rock 'n' roll piano on the opener and Atlanta Smile has that Deep Purple heavy organ sound, but it's Elton John who shines out from this for me. Just Like a Silhouette is clearly Elton John to me, good rocking Elton from the seventies, of course, right down to the horn section. In Another Lifetime does this too, but it sits at the midpoint on a line between Elton John and Guns n' Roses that I never realised existed.
Mostly, it's Americana straight from America though; you don't need to hear more than a couple of bars of Take It on the Chin to hear that and when the slide guitar arrives, it's impossible to hear anything else. What I think I like most here is that, even here at their most American, they still aren't easy to define. There's some Black Crowes rock 'n' roll, because that's not far away at any point here, but there's country in the grounding and gospel in the chorus and southern rock in the gaps between everything else.
In other words, there's a heck of a lot here for a critic to unravel and I haven't even started in on the flute that kicks off Bird in a Coalmine and the violins that float it forward. This is the most overtly country song on the album (She Gets Me High might want to fight it for that), though that's a rock beat and there's a hint of Van Morrison in the vocals, albeit only a hint that's channelled through Steven Tyler. I haven't mentioned Aerosmith, as Blackwater Conspiracy aren't as wildly over-produced or as hook-laden but they're an obvious influence too.
What you need to know is that they sound damn good and gloriously deep. The songs may not be the most immediate or the most simple, but they're likely to seep into your soul. This works best as an album and you won't want it to drift too far away from your playlist. And now I need to dig backwards, not just to the previous Blackwater Conspiracy album but to the three they made before that as Million Dollar Reload.
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