Tuesday 6 July 2021

Kikimora - Dirty Nails (2021)

Country: Bulgaria
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 14 May 2021
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | YouTube

A few things drew me to this album. The name is one, because it sounds great but also has a meaning that's pretty cool too. A kikimora is a Slavic house spirit, a darker equivalent to the domovoi, and was the original explanation for sleep paralysis in Russian folklore. Given that etymology, it shouldn't be too surprising to find that Kikimora are a hard rock band from Bulgaria, which is another reason that I'm reviewing it today. I'm not sure I've heard another Bulgarian hard rock band, but Kikimora are one I'm very happy to have found. I wonder who else are out there.

Kikimora have been around for a decade now and this appears to be their second album. Their driving force is guitarist Nikolo Kotsev, who has released a number of albums as a member of Baltimore and Brazen Abbot, featuring vocals by major names like Glenn Hughes, Göran Edman and Joe Lynn Turner. He also released a rock opera in 2001 called Nostradamus, with Turner behind the mike again. Given names like those, it probably shouldn't be too surprising to discover that Kikimora definitely explore a sort of Deep Purple/Rainbow kind of sound.

That's probably most obvious on King Rock 'n' Roll, which sounds more like Rainbow than some of the actual Rainbow material, but it's there right from the start in Bogeyman, an up tempo rock song that kicks off the album with a flash but not outrageous riff, an obvious underpinning heavy organ and the vocals of Nikola Zdravkov, who's apparently a big fan of Ronnie James Dio but has clearly listened to a lot of Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet too. And I don't blame him. The three Rainbow albums with Dio are as pivotal as rock albums get, but Down to Earth with Bonnet is a killer too.

There are eleven songs here and they're varied within those sort of stylistic boundaries. King Rock 'n Roll is like the later commercial Rainbow singles and others, like Bogeyman and The Hustler, have the barrelling All Night Long/Lost in Hollywood drive to them too. The Chosen One adds an epic feel and could easily be from another Kotsev rock opera. Free is a ballad that starts out like solo Ozzy Osbourne but plays through with some Bad Company simplicity. Zdravkov has obviously been listening to Paul Rodgers as well. The Endless Song is like Dio-era Rainbow but reworked with a more recent vocalist.

There isn't a duff track among them, though some are certainly more memorable than others. I'm not a big fan of Lost Soul, just because it's a musical theatre sort of ballad, which isn't my scene, though it is done well enough that it ought to impress people into that type of song. I much prefer Free, though it's the heavier numbers that get my blood moving that I like most, from the riffs of the opener to the more statuesque and mood driven closer, Liar.

What surprised me most is that, while I prefer Kotsev's guitar to Zdravkov's voice (relatively speaking, as both do exactly what they need to do), it was the melodies of the latter that grabbed me the most. It's the songwriting approach, especially during the first half of the album, that elevates Zdravkov, as Kotsev, who made his presence known immediately with Bogeyman, comes back to shine later on tracks like The Endless Song, King Rock 'n Roll and Cry, Baby, Cry!, very much in the Ritchie Blackmore style.

I like this a lot and will definitely try to track down the band's self-titled debut, released back in 2015. I should see what else is going on in Bulgaria too, as Kotslev isn't the only member of the band to have played with other bands. Zdravkov founded Tornado and keyboardist Antoniy Georgiev founded Ahat, while bass player Nikolai Tsvetkov played with FFH, Black Hole and Hangover. I don't know which have put out product, but I'm interested in finding out.

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