Monday 17 October 2022

Naked Soldier - Naked Soldier (2022)

Country: Switzerland
Style: Stoner/Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 26 Aug 2022
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From Sixteentimes Music in Switzerland, who released Carson's The Wilful Pursuit of Ignorance in April, come Naked Soldier, which is a phrase you'll want to google with caution. Clearly, this Naked Soldier have listened to a lot of Clutch in their time and they emulate their style well, delivering a solid nine slabs of hard rock with a massive streak of stoner rock. The catch is that I also reviewed the latest Clutch album, as recently as last week and, while this rocks as hard and as efficiently, if not more so with additional fuzz, it pales in comparison to the versatility dished out on Sunrise on Slaughter Beach.

Green Pool is a perfect opener because it explains what the band do. They're such a wall of sound sort of stoner rock that I expected them to be a power trio and, sure enough, they aren't. They're the five musicians this depth of sound truly warrants, with a twin guitar assault from Jonas Nann and Oliver Corrodi and an easy to track bass from Noé Burger. Janick Sidler plays his drums with a hard hitting patience and that leaves a raucous Patrik Caminada to handle mike duties without a further instrument to steal his attentions.

It's the guitars that hit us first, because one of them deepens the back end while the other points the way forward on any song, so pointing their haboob of sound our way with a heavy melody right there in front. Then it's Caminada who takes over because he has a commanding set of pipes. It's a clean vocal but also one that's as abrasive as sandpaper, appropriately if he's going to be the voice of a mile high approaching dust storm. We almost need to put on masks to listen to him. I'd love to hear him play a revival tent preacher in a movie.

And so they go. The upside to this album is that they've found an excellent sound. The downside is that they've mostly only found one at this point. These songs mostly do similar things in a similar way and so they combine well to form the album without much likelihood of standing out from the crowd.

There are exceptions, of course. Wicked Man slows the pace a little. The title track slows it down a lot and gets janglier to boot. This is the first real variance in the formula six songs into a nine song album and it's still not a wild leap. The only wild leap arrives with the closer, Love Tree, which is an epic, well, the epic of the album, and, with apologies to Caminada who does such a good job here, the best this release gets is the first two minutes and change of that track before he joins in.

Before I talk about that, I don't want to suggest that there's absolutely nothing here otherwise. It has to be mentioned that the riffing is excellent, albeit so consistently excellent that it becomes a little unremarkable. There's another one. And another. Oh, and another. Cool. There are plenty of solos to highlight too and I'd call out those in Walk Your Way and Satellite as my favourites. Talking of Walk Your Way, I absolutely love the second half of this one, when we can easily follow both the guitars and the bass in different directions at exactly the same time. It's my favourite song here.

But, yeah, there's Love Tree and that glorious intro. It starts teasingly as if one of the guitarists is trying to turn his instrument into a flute, the sound hovering in the air with firm intent. The other deepens the sound, as it tends to on this album, and periodic distant cymbals threaten to turn this into a song at some point. What's great about it is that they take their sweet time. Even when the whole band joins in, it's so they can not so much duel but solo separately, always at a distance. The spatial awareness of this song is glorious, because it feels like the band are so far apart when they begin that they can't even hear each other but they grow together until there's a coherent sense of unified purpose. And then, three and a half minutes in, we get the song.

It doesn't hurt that it's a good song too, though it can't quite match the promise of that intro. It's a great way to wrap up a self-titled debut album. This is what we can do, world. Like and follow us and all that jazz and especially come to see us live. I have a feeling this band are going to be quite the force to be reckoned with on stage, as indeed are Clutch. They're never the fastest or even the heaviest band on any bill but they own their stage anyway and the pit gets seriously moving. I can imagine these gentlemen from Zürich doing exactly the same thing.

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