Fronted by stand up comic Alex Agnew, Belgium’s Diablo Blvd are anything but a humorous act. Quite the contrary, latest release “Zero Hour” finds the band exploring humankind’s darker side within a world that just keeps getting things wrong. Their cries have not gone unheard over the past decade either. Along with supporting such acts as Machine Head and Ace Frehley, their previous releases have made respectable noise in Belgium’s charts.

The commercial accessibility is apparent immediately on opening track “Animal”. Very polished production and pop rock sensibilities along with a slightly 80’s vibe fuel this along. Hints of The Cult blend into rockier, Foo Fighters style riffage in parts and there’s plenty of drive as the clean, controlled vocals sit nicely in the mix. Shades of Killing Joke start to appear on “You Are All You Love” albeit without that true sense of danger but there is a slightly menacing, sparse overtone with plenty of bottom end groove to give it a bit of weight.

The dark, contemplative acoustic piece “00:00” punctuates the mid-section of the album before a slight directional change. “Like Rats” has a more chaotic, progressive rock feel with lighter drum flourishes that spiral away. Similarly on “Demonize”, the album’s longest track delivers an edgier, tortured intro creating an air of expectancy for something big. A nice, chugging riff arrives and the atonal vocals leave a satisfying feeling. The band’s strengths are on display here and they’ve allowed themselves the freedom to explore the album’s central themes. A more gothic rock vibe closes the album’s last two tracks, especially on “The Future Will Do What It’s Told” where shades of The Cult re-emerge and Agnew’s vocals push a little harder.

This stark vision of the world delivered by Diablo Blvd is a smooth, well produced release. The album artwork is a pretty clear reflection of this too with its’ clean lines and surrealist tones. While not menacingly heavy and more rock than metal, this should please those looking for something a little different.

(7/10 Johnny Zed)