Damn me, but there must be something retro in the air these last 12 months or so. Whilst the popular ‘metal’ press are continuing to push the latest pop punk puppets and kerrapp neck tattooed shouters with exotically styled heads of hair and facial piercings, in the underground press, the realm in which the goblins and ogres of Avenoctum dwell, time seems to have shot back several decades to an era of loon pants and gigs where smoking was practically mandatory, and inevitably herbal. Devil laid down the gauntlet with ‘Gather the Sinners’; Orchid’s ‘Mouth of Madness’ had the band’s amps firmly set to Volume 4; and just yesterday I pressed the send button on a review of an upcoming release from Svart Record’s first Brutus album which will fit in nicely with recent Uncle Acid and Bloody Hammers offerings. Even this humble scribe is now sporting era appropriate facial furniture in the form of a droopy greying ‘tache and matching chin merkin. Yep, there is definitely something retro in the air; maybe it’s the Sabbath effect with riff lord Iommi and his four string wizard compatriot teaming up with Autotune Osbourne for their first joint release in decades, although I’d prefer to think it might be the influence of Saint Vitus coming back with their excellent ‘Lillie F-65’. Whatever the reason, retro is here, and new to the fray are Texas five piece Scorpion Child, a band most luxuriously equipped in the flared trouser and facial hair departments.
Opening with the shake of a rattlesnake’s tail, and some authentic Southern Rock vocals (they are from Texas folks), ‘Kings Highway’ comes creeping out like a bastard born of a night of whisky soaked sin by Lynyrd Skynyrd in a Bourbon Street brothel, the twin guitar riffs being laden with an arrogant swagger as well as lashings of blues fuelled anger. Hell, ‘Kings Highway’ is a superlative track that could truly deserve a review all of its own, if the other tracks on the album weren’t themselves so deserving of attention. ‘Polygon of Eyes’, a track with a title straight from the age of the Old Grey Whistle Test ups the tempo with a prog driven rhythm section matching the guitars in screaming for attention, the drums evoking the work of Bonzo in their power. This Zeppelin influence is even more apparent in ‘The Secret Spot’, high vocals playing against and intertwining with classic hard rock riffs; this band really sounds like they play with more experience and accrued knowledge then their history would suggest, and it would be very easy for lesser musicians to sound as if they were just a parody of an earlier era rather then paying homage as Scorpion Child so clearly do.
Not everything is just balls out hard rock, with ‘Antioch’ taking time back even further to the pastoral sixties with the era of flower children and free love encapsulated in gentle harmonised vocals, the amps only getting cranked up for the chorus and a storming guitar solo, the gentle track being a nice counterpoint to the rest of the album. True to its hard rock form, the album finishes with the truly epic ‘Red Blood (River Flows)’, the track starting with a simple acoustic guitar strum and vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black proving his power, sounding initially like a young Freddie Mercury before the track builds up layer after layer into a massive wall of sound before fading into the sound of cicadas chirping on plains for minute after minute until the prog ballad recommences with trippy distorted vocals accompanied by a lone guitar.
This is a massively accomplished debut album, and if you like your rock to sound like a classic, but are looking for something with an injection of youthful energy, look no further.