THE SWAMP BORN ASSASSINS – Smell The Mud Album
Glasgow quintet’s debut album. There are few bands around who are talented enough and come along to redefine what Classic Rock is all about – but when a band comes along and is of such godlike genius, that they actually reinvent and subsequently set the benchmark for, what Classic Rock is all about, then you might just sit up and take notice. Not only that, but if you also take the core of blues-rock, tear up the rule-book and make it your own as though nothing else had ever existed, then you know you’re witnessing an event as rare in modern music as the chance of earth being wiped out by a passing comet – and it’s arguable as to which would be the more powerful!!
Exhibit A, m’lud……..
The album starts with “Out In The Rain” and immediately you are hit squarely in the face by this huge mid-paced freight train of churning bass, deep and dirty guitar, searing heat electric slide guitar, drumming that threatens the structure of your nearest wall and a singer whose bluesy holler would tear paint off battleships at 100 paces, only then for the singer to provide a burst of heavy metal harmonica that takes the roof off. Onward goes the song, burning everything in its path – bluesy, dirty, heavy and wildfire Classic Rock by any other name, only as new and fresh sounding as anything you’ve heard in the many previous decades that rock has existed.
But then – THEN – comes “Walk Tall” – and here they accelerate the pace, increase the intensity, and producfe a song that has got the lot – a hook that sinks into your skin and refuses to let go, the ensuing huge sounding fireball of bass, guitars and drumming, more wailing harmonica, rock solid vocals, nuclear lead and incendiary slide guitar, as the song rolls along like one of those giant American steel-carrying trains, equally unstoppable and every bit as jaw-dropping, and a song that will have you singing it in your head long after the thing has gone – not that you ever want it to go. But you have to – because “Dead Man Walking” is now upon you and here the band produce yet another slice of scorching rock as another song with a rolling sea of verses and a stunner of a chorus, is propelled by massive bass, guitar riffing of the highest order, more of that roaring harmonica work, the bluesy swagger of the lead vocals and the dyanmism of the multi-tracked choruses, all aided by electric guitars that leap out like solar flares and a distant organ river to add texture, contrast and depth – with the breaks from the guitars and harmonica, this is one cast-iron, guaranteed brilliant, tasty heavyweight sucker of a track.
Up next is the near 8 minute “Land Of The 6 Guns”, and as you might expect from the title, it conjures up the Wild West with native American indian-like chanting and rhythms at the beginning, before this extraordinary combination of electric lead and slide guitars comes along to have you jaw-dropped in amazement as the rhythm section stride in and this slowly flowing monster of a track completely redefines blues-rock in a whole new universe. The singer really lets go on this perfectly in tune emotive delivery, and gives it his all, as all around, the town is on fire and this band are playing at the centre of the inferno, positively daring it to get them. The weight of the track is awesome, the depth almost bottomless, while the whole thing is more exciting than a lottery win. The verses flow like spilled wine and the choruses are, yet again, absolutely unforgettable, while the whole feel of the song is rock solid and never far away from its purposely evoked subject imagery, justifying every second of its length.
Then, with a wildfire howl of the title from the lead singer, comes “Crawl” as another fireball of molten rock n roll comes heading towards you with enough force to power Glasgow for life. Yet more guitars are piled high as the singer takes off like a rocket, the riff swirls around your head inexorably and the band as a whole play this rollercoaster of swirling, low down and dirty rock that sounds for all the world like the musical swamp from which the band is born, the guitars as heated as they come, as is, in fact, every other band member, on a track that, by the end, makes you realize you’re so wrapped up in it all, you’d better start breathing again before you pass out, knowing that next time you hear it, you’ll be leaping about the room like a dervish on heat. The title track of the album possesses another vocal hook in a chorus that, once heard, never lets go. Opening with solid bass, emerging layers of red hot guitar work, and threatening to take off, instead it briefly drops back to a sneer as the singer intones menacingly, a lot like the legendary Alex Harvey used to do on parts of the “Next” album, only then the band crash headlong into the chorus with harmonica wailing above the canyon-sized rock attack that’s heading right at you – but the song is all about thse dynamics and contrasts as it goes, which makes it even more successful, and when the mighty lead guitar soo appears above the seemingly unstoppable mid-paced metal density that’s going on around, ony for the chrous to reappear, the effect is as hypnotic as it is awesome, as nearly 6 minutes goes by that feels more like half its length, it’s that hot an item.
But if you want hot, then the tsunami that is “Never Ever Never” charges into life with the dirtiest riff and rhythm setting so far as the band really let rip on all fronts and this supercharged mother of a song is unleashed, a song that has the lot – and I mean the lot – defying any rock fan on the planet not to be caught up in its monster tracks and headbanging mercilessly to the roar of wildfire blues-swamp—classic rock magic that is brighter than the sun and arguably as hot. From fiery vocals through pounding rhtyhm section and blistering guitar heat from the electric slide and lead guitars and the ubiquitous harmonica heaven, this is the stuff of legendary status as, come to that, is the entire album, if you have to be honest about it.
What comes next would, if weren’t reading this review, take you by surprise, so if you don’t want to know, look away now………
…..because the next track is over 9 minutes of “Clara Belle Lee” and it’s amazing – partly because it doesn’t do what you expect it to do. First off, it tells a story, in its Wild West lyrical way; secondly, it starts slowly with a traditional blues rhythm as the rhythm section take a more restrained approach, the guitar winds round in snake-like fashion, the riff bursts forth and drops away as the song goes and the textural whole is completed by a really classic slice of seventies sounding organ river running alongside the band. The singer gives an equally powerful, wide-ranging, emotive performance as he hangs back on the verses, rises up on the choruses and the song winds its intricate and astonishingly successful bluesy swagger to the other side of town and back, stopping at the bar on the way. There’s also a female singer appearing along the road to add to the story that’s unfolding, and the complete entity that is this stunning track, is like a musical movie to which you’re inexorably drawn, hooked for the duration, enamoured by its presence, impressed by its bursts of lead guitar breaks, engaged by the dual vocalising and irresistibly swaying to the rhythm section and the rising riffing into which the song builds then falls back. As I said, not what you might have expected, but godlike genius, all the same.
But, not to leave you on a slow (ish) note, the band gather their forces and decide to leave you with one finally flurry of musical mayhem as a police siren introduces you to the delights of “The Gator Hole”, a place where all hell breaks loose and one of the most commercial rock tracks in many a year comes at you like an angry mob – a mob full of guitar players, one thunderous rhythm section, a whole town of vocalists and one out-of-his-head harmonica player, all of whom proceed to lay down this blistering rock attack of a song that’s absolutely unforgettable, irresistible and defies you not to dance around and place last orders before you crash into the street a drunken wreck – one mighty slice of muscular rock magic to end what’s been the most satisfying experience in rock music that I’ve had the pleasure to hear in many years – like I said at the start, an album that sets the benchmark in 2017 for all that is to follow, and surely heralding this band as the “bright new sensation in rock” that music magazines world-wide won’t hesitate to sit up and take notice.
THE SWAMP BORN ASSASSINS – Smell The Mud Album