Monday 25 October 2021

Mescaleros - No Fear No Limits (2021)

Country: Spain
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 24 Sep 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Not to be mistaken for Joe Strummer's old backing band after he left the Clash, this is a current hard rock band from Barcelona, the home of some of the most interesting architecture and most delicious seafood on the planet. I say current because they are, but it's obvious from their sound that these are definitely not a bunch of young kids starting out. This band feels experienced and more so than might be suggested by their three prior albums going back to a debut in 2011. They feel like a band who was around in the eighties and still loves that high energy hard rock sound with just an edge of well, a bit of everything, really.

Dreams kicks off the album like a NWOBHM era song from a band who had played in the hard rock era of the seventies but were heavying up a bit for the new decade. It's both rough and tight, because it's no nonsense, working class rock music. There's a lot of the Scorpions here to my mind and I don't mean their heyday in the eighties but their earlier underrated stuff, when Uli Jon Roth was still in the band. The Feeling starts out like a Paul Di'anno era Iron Maiden song and often comes back to that, but it's also a dirty rock 'n' roll number, combining Maiden energy and Scorpions guitar with some Motörhead earthiness.

But Away feels smoother and slicker, as if it's aiming for airplay, even though Amadeo Digon's vocals are, shall we say, hardly smooth like a Steve Perry. They're as obvious on this as any song here, except perhaps the stylised intro to So Many Clouds, and they're halfway between Uli Jon Roth and Michael Monroe, which means that they're an acquired taste. I rather like them but I'd bet money that most detractors of the band would focus on them over any other aspect. It's hard not to dig Alfonso Digon's versatile guitar, whatever it happens to be doing; the drums of Sergio Gavin are effortlessly reliable and Manu Reno's basswork is fantastic and often a real highlight.

Talking of the bass, it really comes out to play on Night is Where I Belong. For almost three minutes, it plays in that early Scorpions sound with an absolute vengeance, but then the bass leaps to the fore to go absolutely wild as a lead-in to the guitar solo, half Primus and half reggae. It's really striking and yet it doesn't remotely spoil the song; it just adds an extra fascinating component to it. The Dark Side of My Soul kicks off with some delicious basswork too, much slower but just as effective. This is driving slow blues rock with a slight shift four minutes in to a proggier take on the same.

I absolutely love the middle part of this album. It starts well, but Night is Where I Belong ups its game and The Dark Side of My Soul underlines that. Then there's Invincible, which may be my favourite song with what must be my favourite midsection. There's some Manowar swagger added to the sound the band have already established and that means more power, which is welcome. But it's the midsection that really sells me on this one, starting halfway through. It's an utter delight, sassy and teasing and exploratory. It's not just the guitar, which is fantastic, but everything around it, including some great interplay with the drums.

There are another five songs to come at this point, but there's not much new to find in them until the final two. Light My Way adds a rockabilly urgency to proceedings and Sueños wraps up the album on a very different note. Not only is it sung in Spanish, the only song here that can boast that, but it's done with a far softer touch, not entirely an acoustic version of the opener, Dreams, but for a while exactly that. Amadeo Digon certainly seems more comfortable singing in Spanish, so I wonder how a Spanish language version of this album would differ from this one, but I'm not as sold on the softer approach for a band who thrive on energy. It's a good song and it feels more Spanish than it should given vocals alone, but it also feels lighter than the album that preceded it.

And, as a child of the eighties who found rock music in 1984, I really like this. Had Tommy Vance played these guys on the Friday Rock Show, I'd have been down at Groové Records the following day to ask Sid for their album. Like so many of the bands from that era, I have a gut feeling that the Mescaleros kick serious ass on stage. This is the sort of outfit who will hang out in the audience to listen to the earliest bands on an indoor festival bill, quietly walk on stage, steal the day and, after loading their gear into their van out back, return for another couple of pints at the bar to see how everyone else is doing.