Being from the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire area myself, I get a fairly good look at bands rising out of the area. Currently there are a plethora of top bands in this area of the East Midlands and Grand Ultra have been on my radar for a little while.
Describing themselves as playing “rock and metal of various shades ranging from classic 80s to heavier modern styles and different stops in between”, Joe Hill (Vocals), Justin Larner (Guitars), Stu Wildey (Bass) and Gary Evans (Drums) draw you in from the get go. You want to hear this concoction they have produced, out of curiosity more than anything else.
Cards on the table time. Grand Ultras debut album “Here We Are” is absolutely glorious. It is offensively good. I’m talking the kind of good that makes you take your earphones out, storm off and refuse to listen to it any more. I had to have a lie down and rethink my life after 4 (yes FOUR) songs.
This whole record is a mash up of everything “City Of Evil” era Avenged Sevenfold, Winery Dogs and, in some of the guitar parts, Canadian wizards Protest the Hero.
The absolute highest compliment I can pay vocalist Joe Hill is that his voice is the frankly pornographic combination of Myles Kennedy and Rody Walker (of the aforementioned Protest the Hero). It is sultry, it is soaring and it is powerful. Nothing appears to be out of this guy’s reach.
Opening track “Won’t Let It Go” gives you everything you need to know about Grand Ultra’s musical proficiency. There is a thumb tapping 80’s inspired guitar riff, thumping drums and Hill’s jaw dropping vocals all in the opening 2 minutes and more of the same is found in second track “Less You Know”.
“No Friend of Mine” with its elevator music opening refrain and some crooning from Hill is one of only two moments of respite on the record. There is some very classy drumming from Evans on this track, giving it exactly what’s needed rather than overcooking it. Wildey is giving us some lovely walking bass lines as well which keeps the listener hooked and Justin Larner has a very tasteful solo.
Once this track is done, take a break. Make a brew. Because it’s balls out, arrogant (in a very good way), swashbuckling rock ‘n’ roll from here on out.
There’s some Pantera esque riffery in “Fade to Grey” along with a big Alter Bridge chorus. ”Mirror Mirror” lulls you in to a false sense of security with a quite bass intro before smashing in to a chunky Rock ‘n’ Roll riff with a very glam metal chorus. The title track “Here We Are” is a pure nod to Def Leppard and Steel Panther but with the drumming of Jimmy Sullivan era Avenged Sevenfold (don’t ask me how, but it isn’t at all out of place). “Apocalypse” is the biggest nudge in the direction of Protest the Hero with tapping guitar riffs and wonderful vocal harmonies in the chorus.
8 minute long closer “Break My Fall” takes two and half minutes for the whole band to join in, but don’t skip to that bit, because the first part of the song again show us flawless melody creation, a display of Hill’s vocal capabilities and Larner’s penchant for a top guitar hook.
The guitar work is incredible. The bass is tasteful and perfectly played. The drums are absolutely superb. The vocals are mesmerizing. Together it creates a killer record.
Classic Rock Magazine said of Grand Ultra 'If you've got the arena, Grand Ultra have got the rock'.
Somebody get these boys an arena for goodness sake.