Excellent - if slightly different,
This review is from: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea (Audio CD)
Black Stone Cherry are one of those bands that you know exactly what you're getting.
The album kicks off with typical crunching guitars, a solid beat and Chris Robertson's gruff vocals. 'White Trash Millionaire' is very good, it's very structured and quite refined.
While no fan ever questioned BSC's musical ability, if you're thinking of buying the record then this perhaps is the wrong album to really introduce yourself to their music for the first time. You need to get their debut, then their follow-up to follow the transition from raw Southern Rock to mainstream Rock. 'Killing Floor' rips Alice in Chains, from the half-step vocal harmonies to the dark, droning Cantrell-esque guitars (including the hazy middle-eight and the heavy distorted solo). While some may say this is not a mainstream record, deep down, it is. No track (even on the bonus track version which I own) is over four minutes.
'In My Blood' is probably the most mainstream song - but surprisingly one of the best. I really like it and it has a very accessible feel to it while maintaining the classic BSC sound. It's difficult to always get that balance but it's generally managed throughout the record. The solo as ever is awesome and Robertson echoes Slash here for me, which is some compliment! The frontman is a more than able guitarist as well as a superb vocalist.
'Such a Shame' immediately hits full throttle with a fast-tapping riff before a chugging verse opens into a huge chorus. I really like this song too (as I do them all). It's still BSC but not as loud. That's not a bad thing.
'Won't Let Go' is absolutely brilliant. An acoustic guitar starts things off with Robertson's vocals and the bridge brings a great vocal harmony between Robertson, bassist Jon Lawhon and guitarist Ben Wells. John Fred Jones is an amazing drummer (having seen the band live a couple of years ago they brought the place down). You can imagine this song though - BSC are really going for a stadium sound - huge, singalong choruses. It works brilliantly.
'Blame it on the Boom Boom' is very good, I wasn't that impressed at first but it's really grown on me. The chorus is so catchy and that riff just off time just works. It's slick, it's cool and it rocks.
'Like I Roll' is more traditional BSC with typical tales about 'Rolling Stones on the radio' and so on - a typical slightly-bluesy, slightly country take on hard rock music. BSC are the modern-day masters at this.
'Can't You See' is simply stunning, and one of my favourite BSC tracks, not just on this album, but that they've ever recorded. It's heavy, groovy, it's simple yet complex, the solo is excellent, it's got everything you could ask for in a hard-rock track.
'Let Me See You Shake' isn't the strongest track on the album, but most Rock bands would kill to be able to produce music like these guys can. It's catchy and even though the riff is relatively simple, except for the solo which is amazing. This is heavy, dirty Southern rock. And it's brilliant.
'Stay' is a ballad which starts softly but rocks in the chorus and brings a great solo. The standout performance comes (unsurprisingly perhaps) from Robertson and his superb vocals. He has the voice of a man twice his age (it's amazing to think these guys are only in their early to mid twenties). This song is one of the album's finest without a doubt.
'Change' is heavy. VERY heavy. For older fans of the band, think 'Long Sleeves' meets 'The Bitter End' (both off 'Folklore & Superstition) and you have something that sounds close to it. As this song goes though, the chorus once again is the centre point of the song with huge vocals and massive chords. The middle-eight is the stand-out for me personally though as the vocals are so different - and it's so seamless how it feeds into the final chorus and THAT huge riff that chugs along here and there throughout the song. Awesome.
'All I'm Dreamin' Of' is a typical country ballad. It's not heavy at all, led simply by acoustic guitar, a slide guitar, a mandolin in there somewhere and a happy feel to it. It brings the album to a delightful close (at least on the standard edition). A triumphant sound.
However, there are three additional tracks on the special edition. 'Staring at the Mirror' kicks in powerfully with huge guitars before Robertson sings over bass and slide guitar. The chorus kicks in with the massive distorted guitar sound and the backing vocals are a class apart throughout this album (the harmonies are special). Usually bonus tracks are B-sides a band would chuck on for an extra buck, but such is the quality of BSC's music nothing is left as filler, all the tracks are top quality.
'Fade Away' is a slower-paced track in the vein of Nickelback. I really like this track (as I do them all). Yes, this is more mainstream, but so what? Basically all that's happened is that BSC have refined their sound slightly, cut the songs a bit (which is the only shame) and as a result opened their music to a wider audience. The solo here is brilliant - Chris Robertson is an amazing guitarist (I should know - having stood six feet from him shredding furiously a few years back in Manchester's Academy). These guys can really play.
The final track is called 'Die For You', and is the heaviest bonus track. It's also the weakest of the three, but harks back to the AIC sound of 'Killing Floor'. As you think the song's fading in quality, in steps a brilliant chorus to save the day. The breakdown is just sick and the soaring chorus rescues this song.
Overall then, a great record. A brilliant record. A few pointers though - if you're new to BSC and want to get into them I'd recommend you start with their debut (self-titled), then buy the follow-up (Folklore & Superstition) before following up with this. Some fans don't like the change - but there was a similar outcry when Biffy Clyro went more mainstream when they released 'Puzzle' and look at them now.
The problem that BSC have is because they set the bar so high with their first two albums, this was always going to be a massive task to improve upon. I don't think that they've improved on the previous two records but they've certainly matched them.
When BSC had just released F&S I saw them in Manchester's Academy 2.
This November they're playing at the MEN Arena in Manchester, with Alter Bridge (and being supported by Theory of a Deadman).
This album entered the chart at number 23 - something the previous two records would never have managed. Sure, you have to make a few changes sometimes along the way - not everyone will agree, but if it makes you successful while still maintaining your sound, it should be called a success.
And these guys are well on their way now, I look forward already to their gig in November and what album number 4 will bring in the next few years.