It's only been a year since the previous Dead Daisies album, Holy Ground, but they're back already with a new one, which is their sixth. I had an odd reaction to that one, because nothing popped on the first listen but everything popped on the second. That's not a typical reaction for me, where it plays that black and white, but this album wasn't far different. Once again, most of these songs, as capable as they obviously were, left me dry on a first listen, only to pop nicely on a second. If there was a difference, it was that a couple of songs grabbed me a little quicker.
They waited a while though. It was Kiss the Sun, which kicks off the second half, that made me pay attention first. I think that's because it has a real mood to it. It looks and swirls and feels like it's a lot bigger than it is, as if there are a dozen musicians behind Glenn Hughes, who gets plenty to do and clearly has a blast doing it. He's a highlight throughout the album, as we all expect him to be, but he doesn't showboat to steal the spotlight. In particularly, the guitar of Doug Aldrich is strong throughout too and both of them seem to enjoy pushing each other just a little bit further.
Courageous followed it up well, achieving much the same effect, albeit not to the same degree. An impressively simple Sabbath-esque riff impressed on Cascade too, so that was three in a row on a first listen. The rest waited for the second and, once again, they all play in a way that remind of an array of influences without any song actually sounding like it could be by anyone else. That begins with the opener, Face Your Fear, which is half AC/DC and half Bad Company, the first half being the music for the most part and the second half being the vocals.
There's more AC/DC in Hypnotize Yourself, but not as much and not for as long. Hughes channels a soulful David Coverdale style for the verses before going back to AC/DC for the chorus, but there's a nineties feel to it too, as if some famous band from that decade were covering the Aussies, even if I couldn't tell you which one. Shine On has a heavier take on the same vibe. The fundamental riff shifts from AC/DC to Metallica, commercial era, though Hughes remains himself and doesn't take on either of those styles. That slightly grungy back end remains throughout as a backdrop.
If Hughes is channelling an influence, maybe there's some Chris Cornell there, but I'm stretching a little now. Hughes seems to have been around forever, even if he didn't join the Dead Daisies until 2019, replacing John Corabi—not a line-up change I ever expected to acknowledge—and he has an enviable back catalogue to trawl through. After all, he'd knocked out a couple of Trapeze albums a few years before joining Deep Purple in 1974, the first of them a year before I was even born and I can't be described as a spring chicken in my second half century.
What's telling here is that he still feels fresh. He's a little further down in the mix than I'd expect, which means that it can feel like he's surrounded by four walls of sound. He often seems happy for that during the verses of a song, only to elevate himself into a more overt chorus with emphasis. I love that he still has such passion for music that he's still evolving his sound. I wonder if he sees his efforts with the Dead Daisies as a way to look forward musically as a counter to the way he's able to look backward with Black Country Communion. I realise that's an overly simplified take but it's not an unfair one.
And all this talk of Hughes means that I'm not talking about Doug Aldrich, which is unfair because he's actually the highlight for me across a swathe of this album. It's Aldrich who sets the tone on a song and he delivers some serious solos. The best one early is on Hypnotize Yourself but he's even better on Kiss the Sun and Courageous, the latter of which sneaks past the former to be my choice for the highlight of the album, perhaps with Cascade behind it and maybe Shine On or Not Human after that. He's hardly a new fish either, with decades of work with bands like Dio and Whitesnake going back to Bad Moon Rising and Lion. He's stronger here than I remember him last time out, but I've been a fan for a long time.
I should mention the other members of the band, given that David Lowy is the Dead Daisies' only founder member and the driving force behind them. He's on rhythm guitar as always, while Brian Tichy is back on drums, oddly on his third stint in a band that's only been around for a decade. This is his first album back and only his second with the band after Make Some Noise in 2016. They seem very tight but then this band has maintained a revolving door of a line-up throughout their time. I wonder if that's partly why they can keep knocking out albums and for them to keep sounding this good.