UK release: 26th September 2014
Roger Berzerk Fauske
Over to the west coast of Norway for this one and the beautiful city of Bergen. There is something about the city that makes you want to go back time and again so it is fitting that a band from there have also been creating quite a stir recently.
This is actually their fifth album, but the last two, 'Audrey Horne' in 2010 and last year's 'Youngblood', are where the band have really matured and set out their stock to be a band in the classic rock vein – indeed for their last album they actually set out to create the perfect classic rock album and they did a damn fine job.
Their ethos is in the traditional vein as well, incessant touring, live recordings in the studio, or as live as a studio allows you, keeping the raw rock sound that so many have discarded in the name of over production.
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So to 'Pure Heavy'. After their sterling efforts from last year's album, the band basically worked with two producers for this one - Jörgen Traeen, who mixed 'Youngblood' and Iver Sandöy, who engineered 'Youngblood'. According to vocalist Toschie, they would only produce it if the band let fly with their ideas and had a fun time doing it! So what have they come up with..?
Starting off proceedings is 'Wolf In My Heart' and it carries on in the classic rock mode of the last album, but this time with a deeper more layered sound. Twin guitars of Arve Isdal (Ice Dale) and Thomas Tofthagen immediately cranking out those style riffs we all grew up with, Kjetil Greve giving the opening of the track more impetus than a runaway train (he really is a damn fine drummer), Espen Lien's bass in perfect musical unison with both drums and guitars – even the intro screams CLASSIC ROCK at you.
By the time Toschie's vocals kick in, your foot will already be a shaking, and the vocal melody interspersed with wicked guitars making use of just about every centimetre of the necks, just adds to it. There is even a well crafted mid section, slow fluttering guitar, vocal over the top as it fires back up into gear after the guitar solo. A great opener.
'Holy Roller' fires off with a drum salvo, guitars powering in behind, more catchy riffs coming right at your throat. The guitar melody on this one a little faster, choppier and again more than a little infectious. Vocals powering in over the top giving it that final push to supersonic. Six string meandering through the song and heavy duty drums fire this one along, another superlative effort.
'Out Of The City', which has been the track first to be given airplay, is immediately reminiscent of one of the greatest of all classic rock bands, Thin Lizzy, the twin guitars at the beginning reflecting that obvious influence, but as Toschie told me the band aren't trying to hide their influences, as so many do and why should you?
The vocal melody is a very different affair on this one as well, reflecting occasionally the older Audrey Horne but updated, and one of those songs that just stays in your head, whether you want it to or not. Riffs abound again but more sedate, more sitting deeper in the mix but it works very well and from a purely marketing point of view, this one has a massive amount of crossover appeal whilst still staying very classic rock. Clever stuff.
Things heavy up again for 'Volcano Girl', crunching guitars, drums filling every space, bass dragging the whole thing along and vocals perfectly fitting on top. Rob Halford-esque "whoas" throughout the song are wonderfully done and never go over the top, and the sound is very full and very much Audrey Horne – think 'Blaze Of Ashes' from their 2010 outing in feel. The vocal chorus really lifts this one, brilliantly gluing the whole song together, each time giving a melodic pause before the guys fire off more musical chicanery and that chicanery never disappoints.
'Tales From The Crypt' starts off in a very different way and is something the Diamond one himself, Dave Lee Roth, would be proud of. Cool drums keeping the rhythm, guitar chords over the top, clever bass patterns thrown in. Toschie really shines on this one, his humour and personality coming through the song and it really is something not everyone could do and pull off as well as they do.
Just hearing it for the first time you will get an image in your head of the band with grins as big as Sognefjord and the twin production team high fiving with shouts of "yeah that's what we meant by fun". There is also not a small amount of sleaze drifting through this track adding to it even more – if you don't love this one then there really is no hope for you.
'Diamond' is a 90 second piece and whilst not a unique concept, this one works very well as a song in its own right and as a tool to break up the album. Very much in the style of 'Sail Away' from their 2010 album but purely electro acoustic sound to the guitar accompanying the vocals. It is a sorrowful piece, melancholy and thought provoking and not without ancestral Viking overtones.
'Into The Wild' starts off with more classic riffery – think beginnings to Dio's 'Stand Up And Shout' mixed with a bit of Saxon, before it throws itself into a fast paced rocker with raunchy chorus. It is in a way the sort of rock fayre you can hear on many albums, but this lot aren't happy with that and take it up a notch or ten with the clever verse backing from Lien and Greve, delving into some rhythm section overload.
Everything comes piling back in for the chorus and Tofthagen and Isdal aren't left out with screaming guitars coming at you from all directions and the ending to the song is quite brilliant, a superb change giving it that mighty crescendo. Toschie's voice is purer on this one, classicly classic rock and the standout track so far – it literally has everything.
'Gravity' apart from being a fact of science is also the next track and it is another belter. Some very big sounds in this one, more clever space filling from the bass and energetic drums and Toschie showing off his vocal range. The guitars gallop along between verses and the shift down before vocals come in is done to great effect. It's another multi-layered, multi sectioned song with great melodies.
'High And Dry' kicks any available orifice from the off and it is kicking in all the good ways. Fast paced, never stopping for breath, again providing more than one melody, drums piling in, military like, before the guitars power on in the middle of the track, and the twin six stringers are literally on fire on this one before vocals come back in. "We're high and dry, barely floating" so the song tells us – the same could not be said of the album.
'Waiting For The Night' is another catchy ditty, delving into the more good time feel of 80's rock. This definitely has that feel good factor to it, guitar backing in the intermediate section standing out before letting fly straight between the eyes with more six string wizardry. This is definitely a singalong one and if anyone wants to know how to combine catchy, melodic and heavy in one chorus, just get your songwriting tackle around this track.
So we head off to the final track on the album, namely 'Boy Wonder'. A little darker at the beginning turns into downright menacing, perhaps more reminiscent of what you may expect from guitarist Arve Isdal's other band, 'Enslaved'. Fear not though you classic rock types, it goes into familiar territory. We have had the military drums on this album, but this whole song has that feel to it and it is definitely a case of quick march followed by charge. A great album closer, and yet another track that pretty much has everything you could ever put on a wish list.
So that is 'Pure Heavy' and it is exactly what it says on the tin. Musically it is nothing short of brilliant, the production is top notch with a perfect mix of polished and raw so there is still that live feel to the music.
Musically, each band member is very very good at what they do and more impressively they gel so well together and you know damn well they are having fun.
I have mentioned it in more than one review and interview, but the key to any album this good is the songwriting and Audrey Horne have that talent in abundance. It isn't just a question of great hooks, good melodies and catchy tunes, but the fact that there are so many layers to nearly all the songs, bridges and refrains that add so much to it all. Interestingly as well, they don't write too many songs that just fade out, so all are perfectly primed for the live arena.
Probably the best compliment I can give them is that almost every album you listen to there is normally at least one track you either don't like or are not sure about, but with 'Pure Heavy' there honestly isn't a weak moment in it. There are memorable hooks and melodies coming at you from all angles and my head is now so full of them that I am fairly sure some important information that I generally use to function in my life has been discarded, but you have to get your priorities right!
The only question I have to ask is why they are not bigger than they are? You can put your mortgage on the fact that if they were American or British they would command a whole load more attention than they do now. But you can take it from me, they are on the rise and they will be as hard to stop as their ancestors were 1100 years ago.
I can't do anything else than give them 5/5 – it should be more as I'm still grinning from ear to ear. It is no secret to most people that I have rated Audrey Horne for a while now but the boys from Bergen have surpassed every expectation with this one.
You can see them live over here on December 1st at Satan's Hollow in Manchester and December 2nd at The Underworld in London.