Monday 10 February 2020

Those Damn Crows - Point of No Return (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 7 Feb 2020
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In New Wave of Classic Rock circles, it's hard to last a few days without a mention of Those Damn Crows. They're building a serious following in the old way: playing live as often as they can, including what sometimes seems like every festival in the country, and doing so with as much energy as they can muster. Back in the day, they called it paying your dues, but I shouldn't throw that many clichés into a single sentence.

They're from Bridgend in South Wales, a small town of 50,000 people that has punched above its musical weight, generating trendy bands like Funeral for a Friend and Bullet for My Valentine. In fact, the brother of Those Damn Crows guitarist Ian Thomas was the drummer for Bullet for My Valentine for nearly two decades. Surely there's something in the water because this band has the promise to be just as big as their more established peers.

They play clean hook-laden hard rock that has moments where the riffs think about being metal but never quite make it. King of Second Chances features an opening riff that reminds me of Megadeth, while Go Get It is driven by a dirty groove metal crunch. However, both are clearly rock songs rather than metal, with vocalist Shane Greenhall top in the mix and apparently unable to sing anything that isn't a hook.

There's such a high energy here that a comparison to Airbourne would be fair but they're a little lighter in tone, with Greenhall more influenced by the soulful side of rock vocals, from Paul Rodgers to Danny Bowes. In fact, I'd throw out Thunder as a good comparison too, though Those Damn Crows are more contemporary in their sound, pulling from a few eras of rock, metal and even a little pop punk.

This second album features a generous thirteen tracks that play consistently in quality, style and length, not one of them reaching the four minute mark. Who Did It kicks things off simply but effectively, going for energy without any frills. It's an obvious single, in the gimme territory for a few formats of rock radio. Set in Stone and Sin on Skin add levels though and may be my two favourite songs here. They're just as catchy as the opener but there are depths to them. Sin on Skin in particular lets Ronnie Huxford's drums shine at the gallop and the backing vocals add so much.

It also features a glorious riff that teases us from the background. This is rock that's driven by its vocals and its energy levels, but David Winchurch and Ian Thomas deserve a lot of credit here for playing so many deceptively simple riffs. Much of this works with power chords or pop punk chugging but when the riffs come out, they're as catchy as Greenhall's vocals and they're the foundation of these songs. They're not complex at all; check out Set in Stone, Send the Reaper or Go Get It and gasp at how simple but effective they are.

Those Damn Crows even pass the litmus test of hard rock albums, because the inevitable ballad doesn't piss me off and make me want to skip it every time through. Here, that's Never Win and, even though it's piano-driven with an overly sentimental orchestral swell behind it all, it sounds good and seems heartfelt without becoming saccharine. Most importantly, like every single song here, it doesn't outstay its welcome, doing its job and handing on to the next song in line.

I seem to be throwing out 8/10s like confetti this month, but this warrants a rating that high. There's not a single song here that even approaches the average and there are a whole bunch of standouts, including a few that I'd want to rewind the radio to hear again. Sure, it's a ruthlessly commercial release and it isn't the most original album I've ever heard, but hey, it's just damn good.

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