Sound — 9
BCC is back and they have taken their music to a new level. The new BCC album takes the original hard blues rock sound of their first album ("Black Country") and improves vastly upon that original sound. The sound on this new album is a lot more riff heavy and in general just a whole lot cooler. One of the biggest improvements is more solos for Bonamassa, which is really cool. The band has mostly hard rock songs with blues influences however there are the occasional acoustic bits, such as that in the song "Hadrian's Wall". In general this band is a riffing and aggressive blues band with excellent solos and the occasional brain melting explosion of sound. Often they have a bit of a Zeppelin feel, however they typically use more powerful and recurring riffs. There are a few explosive songs on this album and it provides a nice feel to the music. Some of these songs definitely reinvoke the magic of the good old days of the early 70's but they avoid having a heritage rock feel. In short this is a really cool album for attractive people. The guitar sound is excellent, the riffs are powerful and catchy. Some of the riffs here could easily fit onto a Led Zeppelin album. Others are more Clapton-esque. In short Bonamassa creates riffs reminiscent of the classics. He has an amazing mastery over his instrument and a great capacity for making new riffs. Bonamassa manages to perfectly capture the blues and inject hard rock into it. The solos on this album are beautiful and often very Iommi like. They are heavy and have a nice blues feel but they mix in a lot of heavy sounds. The sole issue here is that he often uses a riff a lot in a song and after a while it can get a tad repetitive and dull. Asides from that sole qualm I find the guitar to be captivating and magical. Then there is the bass, Hughes pours everything out into this record and puts out so many great bass riffs its amazing. He is one of the few bassists in the world who reminds me that the bass is more than just noob guitar. The majority of the bass parts are based on walking bass lines that are similar in feel to Geezer Butler's. Hughes does an excellent job of keeping everything together with his playing and really emerges as a leader for the bands sound. There is often a lot of technicality on the bass lines and it makes me wish that they turned the bass up a little on this album because it is definitely worth it. The drums are excellent, however considering the drummers father, I am not at all surprised. Bonham is basically an extension upon his father, he is an excellent drummer and excellently handles both the lighter drum parts as well as the heavier ones. He does a good job building up the tension in the songs that explode. Some of the drum fills are straight out of Zeppelin and the show that the pounding and powerful legacy of John lives on in Jason. Jason is just as eclectic as his father and manages the more folksy bits brilliantly. My sole complaint is that there are no drum only fills on this album and I feel that Jason deserves more of a spotlight. Sherinian rocks the keyboards masterfully, he shows a great skill for the instrument and he invokes the aura of legendary Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord. He creates many beautiful shimmery synth parts along with some heavier and more epic organ fills. Some of his more shimmery work reminds me of the classic Jones work. The main issue with the keyboards is that they are often not present enough, sometimes they just fade away into sterility in the back ground. When Sherinian is allowed to rock it the keyboards are excellent, but when they restrain him the sound feels a bit weaker than it could be. As a band Black Country is also excellent, their sound combines to create a powerful and layered listening experience. As I listen to this album more and more I hear several levels to the music and the deeper I get into it the more levels I find. Part of what makes the sound so full is the sheer skill of the musicans. My soul qualm is that some songs go a bit to far in the direction of one artist or another and they feel a bit ripped off. Overall though sound wise Black Country is an amazing band with excellent production and a really full and powerful sound.
Lyrics — 9
On a lyrical level Hughes is a genius. He has some songs with a fantasy feel such as "Faithless", which is by the way possibly the most compelling song of the year. Some of the songs are sexual, such as "Smokestack Woman". In short this album has a lot of lyrical variety and a lot of really compelling songs with sing a long choruses. There is a break from the last album because they talk a lot less about the actual Black Country area and more about life in general. A lot of the lyrics are straight out of the 70s and have an incredible feel. However these lyrics can be both better and worse than the classic 70's songs that they are based on. Sometimes, they are a lot more wise and a lot more beautiful, yet at other times the sheer sexual energy and raw power is lost. "Smokestack Woman" is an excellent example of this.Finally the general vocal quality is excellent. Hughes has an incredible voice filled with passion for his music. I really like his singing on "Smokestack Woman". Hughes has incredible range with shrieked parts mixed in with low sweet singing. Some of the choruses on this album make me want to sing a long and the general quality of the work is excellent. Listening to Hughes now I sense that he has the same passion for music that he did 30 years ago. John Bonamassa is also a pretty amazing singer, his vocals on "Hadrian's Wall" are really cool and capture a great folk feel.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall Black Country is an amazing band with a spectacular sound. There are lots of great influences here and although the songs are not always completely original they are still very compelling and they feel great. From the powerful riffing of Bonamassa, to Hughes's sick bass work which nicely compliments the powerful drums of Bonham, this band takes it all and rocks it hard. The keyboards of Sherinian are great and very Deep Purple-esque. Finally the vocals and lyrics of Hughes and Bonamassa are simply awesome. So I strongly recommend this album to everybody ever, it has something for the blues, rock or metal fan and is worth repeated listens.