Saturday, 17 March 2012

Infernal Overdrive - Last Rays Of The Dying Sun (Small Stone Records 2012)

 Debut album of classic rock riffage from New Jersey's hard rocking quartet.

Having recently reviewed a couple of their releases for, I've recently become an admirer of Small Stone Records, a record label that's based in Detroit, Michigan. Home to an ever growing roster of classic rock, hard rock, blues rock, metal, and stoner rock bands, they're purveyors of a sound that wouldn't cut it with your Shoreditch fashionista but has a loyal and discerning worldwide audience. Defiantly anti-fashion, it's a label that does what it likes and likes what it does.

I also like the label's tradition of fantasy fuelled album covers. Each illustrated cover harking back to hard rock's golden era, usually featuring some sort of mythical beast emerging from the earth, sky or sea to endanger the lives of your humble rock band and fan. The cover of Last Rays Of The Dying Sun, the debut album from New Jersey's Infernal Overdrive is no exception; a horned, winged, red-skinned monster/devil peers over a hillside, his fiery tongue merging with the road on which our hapless heroes travel along in their souped up automobile. The inside sleeve shows a burning road sign declaring it “Route 666”. Crikey! Shall we go for a ride then?

Click over the jump for more on Infernal Overdrive

On first listen, the album and I don't exactly hit it off. The album's opener “I-95” is a fine enough song about hitting the road, named after the famous Jersey Turnpike. No gripes about the music but when anyone claims in song to “live on the edge”, as vocalist Marc Schleicher sings on the next track “The Edge”, I'm inclined to think they don't. Unless of course they're talking about the edge of a suburban housing estate. Once we get over that little disagreement the band's take on classic '70s rock begins to work its charms and I'm swung round into thinking it's actually a pretty decent record. Subtle it ain't, which is part of its appeal. Twin Les Paul guitar lines √† la Thin Lizzy alternate with crunchy riffs over Bonham style drumming and soulful bass swagger. With their Orange amps cranked up to ten, they sound like the roadhouse band you always dreamed you'd stumble across should you ever get round to taking that USA coast to coast road trip.

Classic rock sometimes gets a bad rap, sneered at by trendies as out of date, old hat and unadventurous. Somehow that makes the anti-snob in me like this album and Small Stone Records more. After all, it's called classic rock for good reason. Perhaps as a homage to the band's musical roots there's a cover of Ace Frehley's 1978 track “Rip It Out” nestled in nicely among the band's original songs. Much like fellow modern day classicists The Darkness, they also seem to have a nice line in humour though some that is lost on my limey ears. If you want to get a sense of what the band is about check out the video for "Duel" below or better still download their opus album closer “Motor”, a thirteen minute bass driven, blues-rock tour de force.