Sunday, 3 February 2013

Neon Warship - ST (album review)

The Neon Warship sets sail on their debut release for epic and choppy waters, a sojourn noted for its sea spraying hi-hats and moody breakdowns along the cove of space rock.  Lame riffing on the name aside, this is one of those rare releases that are quickly becoming a favorite around Paranoid Hitsophrenic HQ: the nautically themed album.  It's not enough to give one's band a nautically themed name or the album a nautically themed title, there has to be something more to break through into the nautically themed music category.  Something almost indescribable.  To be nautically themed a band must sound like the sea itself.  The crashing waves, the straining ropes and creaking wood, the cries of gulls and for some odd reason that I can't name, quick strumming on the first three strings evokes a watery mood.  The slower middle part of "Paralyzed" and the beginning of "Burn the Breeze" quite effectively evoke the mood of the sea, as does most of the album.

But Neon Warship has more than just that going for them.  This is a hard rocking album full of big riffs and even bigger vocals.  Opening track "Carry You Away" soars with momentum and establishes the pace and high energy that defines this release.  The tempo may vary but the energy the band puts out is both tangible and relentless.  It's nice, every now and then, to hear a band that embraces naked power and raw skill.  There's not much subtlety on this album.

While there are countless guitarists that do double duties on vocals, rarely does one express such high levels of talent on both as Kevin Schindel.  The first thing that strikes the listener upon hearing Neon Warship for the first time, aside from the killer riffs, is the balls out singing which threatens to shift upwards at a moment's notice and take the head clean off the listener's shoulders.

The next thing that might strike the listener are the high-powered storm-blown winds belched and bellowed by the guitar or sea-spawned drums of Jay Bird which sound like the ocean surface, rhythms lapping like waves intermingling, beneath the surface Matt Tackett's bass currents pull the listener along with a terrible momentum to nearly drown in a kicking struggle.  But this is a hopeful record, not a downer by any stretch and ultimately the listener is washed ashore on a desert paradise, 'Neon Warship' tucked safely under an exhausted arm (format: reader's choice) and a compatible player in a small private thatch-roofed hut just off the beach.  Ultimately the listener wakes up, spits out sand and brine, spies the listening material and nods in approval.

If there were any justice in this world, a song like "Carry You Away" would be number one on all the rock radio stations around the world.  The precedent has been set with a band like Wolfmother.  The similarities are there on the surface: humongous riffing swagger, the aforementioned balls out singing and always impressive punchy dynamic syncopation.  But much as it might be tempting to compare the bands, Neon Warship are more focused in their efforts and a great deal more consistent.  I admit I never heard Wolfmother's sophomore effort but their Grammy Award winning debut was uneven at best, a couple good songs that one was likely to hear on a given night on the radio anyway and dumptrucks full of hype.  Neon Warship won't be getting much hype, except in places like this, but as was said, there's simply no justice.

Nary a weak moment passes during 'Neon Warship''s allotted span.  If there were a new band that played hard and heavy and epic enough to convince one to paint a kick ass mural on the side of one's van and grow a rad handlebar mustache, it would be Neon Warship.  Like a large number of great bands the spirit of the 70s possesses them, but very few albums from the 70s ever sounded this heavy, or this consistently good without veering off into AOR territory, but that's another conversation altogether.  In short 'Neon Warship' is the first hard rock masterpiece of 2013 and the great news is, the band has already written some new songs and is hoping to release a full-length album by the end of the year.  Not sure how much more the band considers a full length album to be, but this self-titled debut is as close as it gets without going over at 36 minutes and change.  It'll be a doozy.

Highlights include: "Carry You Away" and "Paralyzed"

Rating: 5/5

Total Run Time: 36:13

From: Dayton, Ohio

Genre: Hard Rock, Stoner, Psychedelic, Prog

Reminds me of: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Captain Beyond, Corrosion of Conformity, Heat, Wolfmother

Release Date: January 1, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Leave your stomach behind you as you sail the seven galax-seas at warp speed.

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