Thursday 17 March 2022

Black Rooster - Red House (2022)

Country: France
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 11 Mar 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website | YouTube

Here's an album that I liked without really understanding why. Maybe it's just a little different to anything I tend to listen to and the novelty is appealing. Certainly, it's rooted in hard rock and an array of recognisable American genres, from alternative pop/rock to southern rock, but there's something else that I don't think just stems from an unusually deep lead vocal. I'd call out the singer as a key component of the band's sound but I'm not finding a line-up anywhere online so I guess he'll have to remain mysterious for now. Let's just say that his voice is deep and warm and with just a hint of gravel, but can escalate on the turn of a dime. It's glorious in the second half of Burning Me and it has a fantastic ZZ Top rasp on Speed of Light.

My favourite song may be the opener, Once Upon a Dog, which is an intriguing mix of those genres. The edges are all southern rock, with hints of a western sound too, but it's a hard rock song that somehow manages to swing, even though the riffing is relentlessly tight, reminiscent of a less heavy version of Clutch. This is very much a rock band not a metal band. The catchiest is the next one, I Met the Sun, with a telltale nod to No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age that clearly must be deliberate, given an inclusion of that band in the tags on their Bandcamp page. Clutch are there too, along with other diverse but telling names like Johnny Cash and the White Stripes. This song's a cross between the relentlessness of Clutch with the jauntiness of Queens of the Stone Age and that's an interesting battle.

The remaining five songs continue to play with how the various sounds the band like to work with doing their own battles and that generally works out. I'm a Bomb has a really neat groove, almost a Sonics-like garage rock one. Speed of Light trawls in that southern rock vibe again as if it should always be there. These are each good songs. However, there are a couple of other habits the band regularly falls into that I don't like as much and they bring the album down a little for me.

Mostly that manifests as sections, usually at the start of songs, in which the band decide to go low profile. I think they're playing with contrasts, especially in songs like Burning Me, which start out a lot less emphatic than they end up after a build. The approach works well there. It eventually works in Slove too, though it takes its sweet time in building. That one stretches out for a couple of minutes longer than anything else here and we feel it while it's playing. It even slows down for a section of noodling with a delightfully tantalising hint of keyboards floating in the distance, but doesn't get moving until five and a half minutes in. It's a very patient song and listeners may not be as patient.

If the build works in Burning Me and kinda sorta works in Slove, it doesn't work in Useless Times, a telling title given that it feels like the band just noodle around until they're ready to get started. I guess it's an intro, but it's an underwhelming one. It would be a better song if it simply ditched the first minute and change, especially given that the kick to actually start is a good one. That isn't an obvious solution for Slove, which is what it is. Some people may really dig the patience. Maybe I'll grow into that too because it certainly ends wonderfully.

So this is a mixed bag to my ears but an intriguing one. Black Rooster are French, but the sounds I hear are all American and they're put together in a different way to how an alternative American band might do it. I like that and I'd like to hear what they come up with next. There are only seven songs here, because most of them are patient enough to nudge over five minutes, the much more urgent I'm a Bomb the only short song on offer. I wonder how that'll change on their next album.

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