The interesting and talented recent crop of retro-rock/metal bands is a lush one indeed. Though Dutch 3 piece Birth Of Joy are new to me they have been steadily building a healthy following since their inception in 2005. “Prisoner” (album number IV) is an organ-stamped retro-fest with influences immediate as well as subtle – differently perceived very much by each individual listener I reckon. The band very cleverly straddle genres so that what could be an obviously pigeon-holeable sound becomes much more difficult.
OK, first to hit you is that they do sound on the whole like The Doors (‘Holding On’ being the most similar), but less morose, usually more up-tempo and heavier. So yes, Band Of Joy have a Doors-type sound both vocally and musically…but they do MUCH more with it. Their organ-led late 60’s psychedelic-plus-groove/stoner style has you hearing Iron Butterfly one minute and Queens Of The Stone Age the next (‘Grow’). And maybe Atomic Rooster through to Led Zeppelin (‘Keep Your Eyes Shut’) on another. Ten Years After, MC5, early Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, ELP, The Quill, King Crimson and Budgie (plus more that as I said, each different listener will pick out) all seem to make sporadic cameos in the various arrangements. The band effortlessly blend all this together so well that it’s really hard to pinpoint what style or who a particular track sounds like. It’s just…Birth Of Joy.
From a more modern perspective, the variation in Tempos and influences is actually akin to that of The Vintage Caravan (I’m sure they will be sharing many a bill this year), the two bands taking their influences from very similar eras, yet with a different instrumental approach. And, like Vintage Caravan, Birth Of Joy are fantastic musicians. The drummer has a slightly tighter, but just as expressive John Bonham style – Ian Paice too (especially on ‘Longtime Boogie’ which also has an excellent Purple ‘Strange Kind of Woman’/’Black Night’/’Lazy’ feel running through it musically). The guitarist/vocalist is absolutely all over every song…in a good way. He fills so many gaps with so many different styles it’s hard to see how he can do it all live, but I’m informed this talented guy does. The organist has plenty of Keith Emerson’s flair but thankfully, unlike Mr Em, remembers that there is an actual song going on and though the organ is a lead instrument it doesn’t need to dominate. All three work SO well together – as a 3 piece should. The whole album sounds new and fresh, but also has a “written in the studio between tours of the seedy Hamburg clubs” vibe going on as well.
Birth Of Joy have managed to personalise yet another variation within this whole retro rock movement. A wonderfully varied, personal take on things – there’s plenty to interest Metal-heads as well as Progsters – you’ve just got to…feel the groove! And Birth Of Joy groove just as much as they musically excel – three expert songwriters and musicians, working in perfect harmony. And let’s face it, they have a guy with a fantastic organ and showing it to full effect – never shoving it in your face, just happy playing with it in the background until he feels the need to make it bigger and display it in it’s full glory (Oh come on – I waited until ‘the end’ of the review…it’s been killing me…)
(8/10 Andy Barker)