If anyone out there in the land of the internet has been following Ave Noctum for a few years, you may have read my review of Scorpion Child’s eponymous first LP, an album that held the top slot for my choice of album of the year (albeit shared with Hell) of 2013. Since that time, the band has kept on the road, honing their skills, and as far as I can tell changing their line up for each show I got to! Going from two guitars to one, changing bassist and drummer, and now adding a full time keyboard player, this Texas act built around the core of vocalist Aryn Black and guitarist Christopher Cowart have been forging new material in the fire of live shows, and the stunning result is the road honed ‘Acid Roulette’.
From the outset ‘Acid Roulette’ shows that rather than rest on the considerable laurels of the first album, Scorpion Child have returned with a hunger for the success they so clearly deserve. The riff of ‘She Sings, I Kill’ is hard and heavy, the rhythm section is tight and pounding, Aryn’s vocals are dripping with a cocksure swagger, and the new element of a swirling Hammond organ lends an added classic element to “The Child’s” sound. It’s no wonder that this was chosen as the album opener, lead-in single, and has become a firm favourite of their live set, holding its own with ease amongst the well tested tracks of their first album. The pace continues unabated in ‘Reaper’s Danse’ a track that could have easily been introduced by Whispering Bob Harris on the Old Grey Whistle Test and not seemed out of place, either in bombastic style or power, Cowart’s solo belonging to the musical heyday of hard rock before the introduction of computers and committees to the recording studio.
Title track ‘Acid Roulette’ lets the band explore their more psychedelic side, blissed out vocals interweaving with AJ Vincent’s keyboard that seems to have been possessed with the spirit of the late, great Jon Lord, the bass and drums of Padron and Rice carrying the whole song aloft as the guitar plays a supporting role to the Hammond, a remarkable generosity on the part of one of the founders and main writers in the band to the new guy. The rock resumes on follow up ‘Winter Side of Deranged’, a frenetic wall of guitars driving the sound forward. However, it is not all foot on the monitor full throttle rock, and ‘Survives’ with the simple opening keyboard accompaniment to Aryn Black’s more restrained and emotional vocal delivery makes the track sound like one of Queen’s early ballads from the days when their albums were emblazoned with the proud boast of “No Synthesizers!” Each of the thirteen tracks on ‘Acid Roulette’ screams of quality and passion, and even the music free incantation of ‘Séance’ helps cement the timeless nature of the album, sounding to all the world as it does like a sound bite from some occult motorbike gang movie of yesteryear.
I’ve been fortunate enough to catch this current line up of Scorpion Child play live in Glasgow with Crobot, and I can attest to the fact that they can produce the sound of the album live, the push of the crowd adding even more energy to the performance, and I can wholeheartedly recommend that if you get a chance to see them play, buy those tickets and make the journey. I can also hope that this line up holds firm as they absolutely deliver the goods. If there’s anything that the band has done wrong, it is being born and forming in the wrong millennium, as surely if they ever discover time travel and relocate to 1970, Scorpion Child will be spoken of in the same awed tones as Free or Led Zeppelin. Since they live in the now, I feel fortunate as it means I can look forward to more new music and live gigs that are simply joyous and life affirming in the future.