Thursday 3 March 2022

The Neptune Power Federation - Le Demon de l'Amour (2022)

Country: Australia
Style: Psychedelic/Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 14 Feb 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website

I encountered the Neptune Power Federation on their previous album, Memoirs of a Rat Queen in 2019, which I believe was their fourth. I labelled it psychedelic rock, but there was a great range in their sound, trawling in AC/DC, Jefferson Airplane and Motörhead, to name but three. I liked that album a lot and I like this one too, because, even though it sometimes sounds derivative, it never ceases to surprise by taking a left turn into something else.

Case in point, Weeping on the Morn, the eight minute opener. It shifts from an AC/DC swagger to a heavy take on the Heartless Bastards, the voice of the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch a massive asset to the band. She's not tall, at least she puts on one of her massive headdresses, but her vocal stature is gigantic. And, just as we've nailed the sound of this opener, it changes utterly, giving way to liquid psychedelic guitar and hints at folk and glam and all sorts of other genres, as it builds back to the emphatic belt it began with, with a blistering guitar solo at the end.

I couldn't tell it from the songs, but all eight songs here are love songs, as befits the release date of Valentine's Day. The band apparently aren't happy that heavier rock bands aren't taking love songs seriously, so attempted to redress the balance. I can't say that they did that, but they're on top form generally, with every song (except the last one) simply dripping with that no nonsense, in your face attitude that's so common to Aussie rock music, from AC/DC to Airbourne, via anyone on a stage anywhere in the country. A lot of it's driven by the drums, but everyone happily plays ball to make everyone in any audience pay attention.

As with the previous album, the influences vary across the album. Loving You is Killing Me is built out of AC/DC power chords and that huge voice. Emmaline starts out with Black Sabbath riffs but softens up in a hippie way, the backing vocals suggesting that the ceiling on the recording studio is fading away and bathing each musician in light. Madly in Love is a catchy pop punk number. The intro to We Beasts of the Night riffs on Meat Loaf's You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth, a knowing hint at what's to come, because it's a power ballad very much in the Jim Steinman style, as a clear tribute to both of them.

The biggest shift in style from one song to another has to be from My Precious One to Baby You're Mine though. The former kicks in like Motörhead with fuzz, though the Screaming Lord takes it to a very different place than Lemmy would have done. It's a heavy but accessible song, While Baby You're Mine is sassiness on legs, still psychedelic rock but phrased like a girl band taking on disco. It's endlessly fascinating, somehow incorporating Chic, Atomic Kitten and Jet, even adding a folky guitar section midway, but never leaving a recognisable Neptune Power Federation sound. That's quite the statement right there on their impressive versatility.

If there's a surprise here, it's that the voice definitely sits behind the guitars in the mix, which are definitely the foreground instruments, there being two of them, but Loz knows full well that she's more than able to outstrip them whenever she takes a fancy. She does so on more than one track. I'd name the guitarists but I'm not sure who they are right now. They were Inverted CruciFox and Search & DesTroy on the last album and may well still be, but I'm not finding a band roster to firm that up. Screaming Loz Sutch is unmistakable, but the only other name I can confirm is the guest on We Beasts of the Night, which is Chris Penney of Private Function.

Whoever's playing on this album frickin' rocks. That is all.

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