David Lydiard - Guest Reviewer
30th September 2016 marked the release of Idlewar’s first full length album, Impulse, following on from their well-received EP, Dig In (2015). I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard Dig In. I’d seen the band’s name over Twitter as a few friends follow and re-tweet them. They have been on my (ever growing) list for a while and now is the time that I finally got around to taking a listen. I’m gutted that it’s taken me so long. This Californian Power-Trio are fantastic. Combining elements of AC/DC, Foo Fighters and Clutch, Idlewar craft melodic Hard Rock music that demands to be listened to. So let’s give in to impulse (1 point for punnage) and dig in (ooh triple points).
“Stone in My Heel” kicks things off and immediately piques my interest. It has a bit of a lo-fi, Stoner Rock sound to it and James Blake’s passionate vocals pull off a sort of Ozzy Osbourne/Ian Gillan combo (on the chorus especially). “Soul” up next with Rick Grahams 70s styled fuzz guitars hooking you in. James’ vocals are once again superb, this time channelling Chris Cornell. Lots of comparisons to be made but he definitely brings together the best of the 90s-era Grunge mixed with the Classic Rock greats. Dirty solo before the closing chorus. What more could you want? Great stuff!
“Criminal” is the albums first single and reminds me of Chickenfoot. It’s a hard rocking, upbeat number with a ridiculously catchy chorus. It sort of goes against the majority of the albums overall sound but retains the catchy guitar hooks. From that upbeat, almost funkiness, we go into “All That I’ve Got” which is a very brooding, hypnotic, slower song. It showcases James’ vocals superbly. Everyone is given space to manoeuvre and it creates this dark, unsettling vibe. It’s captured perfectly.
We’re back in uptempo-land next with “Innocent” and whilst there is nothing overtly wrong with this track, it surprisingly didn’t grab me as much as the previous four did. There is another cool guitar solo which I enjoyed and I’ve got nothing bad to say about the vocals. I don’t know, it’s weird. There is no reason why I shouldn’t have dug this song. Maybe it’s one of those that will grow on me over time??
Once that midway portion of an album hits there is always that worry of how the second half will stack up against the first. Some bands are notorious for putting their best material at the front end and hoping it’ll carry through to the finish. I didn’t need to worry. Peter Pagonis’ drums come out of my speakers before Rick Graham churns out another catchy guitar riff and the stoner groove of “Glory” is in full swing. Sort of Alice In Chains meets Deep Purple. That groove is so hypnotic. What’s that? Another catchy riff? Oh, come on Rick, you’re spoiling us here. This would be “Apathy” and with “Damage”, “Burn All This” and “On Our Knees” following they all offer an up-tempo riff-fest to close out the album.
All three members of Idlewar are on top form. From Pagonis’ hard hitting drums, Blake’s groovy bass-lines and impassioned, gritty vocals to Grahams stellar guitar riffery, there is very little to fault here. There is a live feel about the songs which adds to the overall sound of the record and its 37 minute running time made it very easy to digest. It has a sleazy, bluesy, stoner vibe to it and if you’re a fan of bands like Sabbath, Deep Purple, Soundgarden etc. then you should easily find something to enjoy here.
Well worth checking out. I’m putting on Dig In as I type this and look forward to hearing how that one sounds.