'Down But Not Out'
Release Date: 29th November 2013
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
What do you call your band? Names for bands are often a tough proposition as they could inform the potential fan-base about your attitude or sound, or they could be simply provocative.
In this case, as I pressed play I was suspecting a Skid Row style rock band due to their name being a popular track by those US rockers. Instead my ears were assaulted by some AC/DC inspired songs.
Mind you, AC/DC did release a single back in 1993 from the movie soundtrack 'Last Action Hero' called 'Big Gun' so maybe that's the connection.
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Mixing up some classic Judas Priest and AC/DC this Irish four-piece deliver eight tracks on this debut album. From those eight songs, one is an instrumental tucked on the end, and one is a cover version of a classic Neil Young song.
In this day and age of Airbourne, Rhino Bucket, Million $ Reload and Screaming Eagles, plus many more which don't spring immediately to mind, do we need another slightly different version of AC/DC though?
'Red Eyed & Rolling' is a real highlight making these guys a competitor. The fumes from a greasy motorbike and the sweat are all tangible at this point. Hot on its sexy heels with a confident strut follows 'The Devil's Highway' which maintains the opening salvo of driving Rock. Their mojo remains intact as a tribute called 'A Song for a Friend' cruises on by with that shout-a-long chorus every AC/DC fan enjoys.
Kieran McArdle really gives a good performance with his gravelly vocal delivery and conjures up some tasty guitar to boot. The drumming is solid and arrives courtesy of Lisa Howe with Tony Drumm laying down some complimentary bass, and then the concoction is finished off with guitar work from Daniel O'Toole. They all inject the venom on songs like 'Remember Me', 'Fall from Grace' and another real highlight in the shape of 'Kiss & Tell'.
Now then, I'm a fan of cover versions and have even devoted a feature on my Rock show to the gory glory that is the concept of the cover version. On 'Down but Not Out', Big Guns tackle the Neil Young classic anthem 'Rockin' in the Free World'. The original which is held in high esteem can be found on his 1989 studio album 'Freedom' which includes both an acoustic and electric version for those who are curious.
Despite this cover version doing a competent job, it doesn't take the song in any real radical direction or surprise the listener. If you're a traditionalist and require something familiar to grab on to whilst listening to this album, then you'll be satisfied.
The album ends on a pleasant instrumental called 'Forever & Always' which showcases a sensitive side to the band. Depending on the mood a band is trying to share, this could be a suitable addition. On an album that is demanding that you Rock hard and grab that air guitar, this is perhaps not the best time to be adding a sentimental instrumental.
'Down But Not Out' is a profound title for an album that really needed to hit the listener with big guns a-go-go, and to hit hard with perhaps ten tracks in total with the calibre and quality of 'Red Eyed & Rolling' and 'Kiss & Tell'. Cover versions and reflective instrumental moments would have been best saved for other occasions when you consider this market place is overflowing with various takes on the classic AC/DC riff-a-rama and approach.
If you asked someone that knew their Rock music whether they would be prepared to purchase an album like this, when they could pick and choose amongst a plethora of others, I suspect that the answer would mostly be no.
This isn't a reflection on the quality of some of the songs; it's more about the playing field in which Big Guns have decided to play.
Kieran McArdle - Guitar & Vocals
Tony Drumm - Bass
Lisa Howe - Drums
Daniel O'Toole – Guitar
1. Red Eyed & Rolling
2. The Devil's Highway
3. A Song For A Friend
4. Remember Me
5. Kiss & Tell
6. Rocking In The Free World
7. Fall From Grace
8. Forever & Always