Thursday 30 March 2023

Those Damn Crows - Inhale/Exhale (2023)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 17 Feb 2023
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This third album shouldn't stop the rise of Those Damn Crows, because it's another strong album, even if I don't believe it's quite up to the standards of its predecessor, 2020's Point of No Return. It does reach those standards but not across the board, so this is a recommended 7/10 instead of the highly recommended 8/10 that I gave their previous album. It does much the same thing, knocking out a string of energetic but deceptively simple hard rock songs, full of hooks and destined to take a season ticket inside your brain. I don't do half points but you could think of it as a 7.5/10.

To my mind, This Time is Ready is when the album kicked into gear this time out but that's the fifth song. Wake Up (Sleepwalker) before it is pretty solid and interesting because it aims to do exactly what the title suggests. It's initially muzzled in post-production, as if we've been asleep but we're waking up in phases and we're stuck for a moment in that twilight zone between the two. Then it's happy to lift the muzzle, turn up the energy and bring us effortlessly back into the day. It feels like an excellent song to wake up to.

There are three songs before that one and they're all decent, but they didn't connect with me. The opener is Fill the Void, which barrels along with an electronic edge as if it wants to do a Powerman 5000 approach, but it's too smooth for that, ending up like an amped up Prodigy remix of a slightly slower song. Takedown ought to work. It's slower but just as urgent as the opener. I think it feels a little lacking because it doesn't build the way that most Those Damn Crows songs do, including the majority of what's still to come. Man on Fire does, so I'm not sure why it feels off. It seems to have all the necessary components but it doesn't have whatever Wake Up does.

And it's a long way short of what This Time I'm Ready does and that's because this one is a pristine grower. It's a little underwhelming when it kicks off, a soft song with an almost country edge, but it builds to a perfect hook of a chorus and there's all the effortless power that this band can bring to bear. Then there's the last third, which is glorious, almost finding a punchy Tool vibe as it takes us home. It's a peach of a song and, while it isn't technically a title track, it's as close as this album gets on that front, the title chanted behind the lead vocals.

And, after Wake Up woke us up and This Time I'm Ready got us ready, the album suddenly finds itself up there with the last one. I Am has a gorgeous groove to it, reminding me of a commercial Paradise Lost, which is weird because this is a long way from the Coridian album I reviewed before it. There, it was in moments but here it's in the grand sweep of the song. See You Again feels like a singalong song after about five seconds and it's exactly that. Both of these have that magnificent Those Damn Crows build too. Waiting for Me has some real character to it to close out the album, with some tasty bass from Lloyd Wood as it kicks off.

I've missed out two songs. Lay It All on Me is decent and I like Ronnie Huxford's drums as it wraps, but it's a lesser song to the others around it. However, Find a Way is my favourite song this time round. It boasts a particularly bouncy riff and I was moving so much to it that I started to miss the keys while I was taking notes. Shane Greenhall nails the vocal even more than he did on This Time I'm Ready and I Am. Once again, it builds, and even if it can't touch the last third of This Time, it's a better song overall.

The worst thing I can always say about Those Damn Crows is that they've never really carved out a firm sound of their own. The reason why they're so good is because they're talented musicians who consistently find that sweet spot where good musicianship and better songwriting meets palpable energy. They mean what they do and they always have and that's what resonates with people. They batter their way into our attention through sheer dedication and then their songs stay because of how memorable they are and, finally, get us moving because they're infectious. If that's what you want in an album, you can probably add a point to my rating.

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