Review Summary: The best bits of yesterday and today held together with utter class
First Hit for Free is actually Voodoo Six’s first album re-mixed, re-mastered and re-packaged. It says a lot that the band went to this much effort when their first album sank amid the downfall of their old record label. Most bands would think “this album was good enough for one label, it’ll be good enough for any other”, or just abandon it and move on. Looking at the songwriting credits, an awful lot of it is credited to a member of the band no longer in the line-up. It may be that this was a stop-gap release while the band worked on a set of new tunes, but don’t let that convince you this album is anything slapdash!
If there was such a thing as state of the art classic rock – something of a contradiction of terms – this would be it. As aware of the glories of the past as Wolfmother
and The Darkness
were, but feeling utterly fresh, vital and most importantly original. The swirling psychedelic sludgy reverb of the riffs, howling vocals and screaming solos take the key component parts of what made bands like Led Zeppelin
, Black Sabbath
, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
so special but you could never, ever mistake these compositions for anything from that era. Modern production is used not just to sound up to date and suit digital recordings, but to evoke a different perspective on that traditional sound.
The subtleness is evident from the start, on “Faith”, with a riff that judders as cleverly as it is sludgy. Only a modern production can bring out that heaviness without fuzziness overwhelming the distinct, clever riff. Again, second song “No Friend of Mine” is a Zep-styled soft verse/hard chorus ballad/rocker combo, but on the verse Henry Rundell sounds like he is at the other end of the recording studio, whispering at the listener from some distance...older recordings would never try this for fear of losing the crisply recorded vocals. Strangely, the lyrics are not reminiscent of that era – they sound more like the rambling, unexplained metaphors of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, but less developed.
This – the lyrics – is one of the band’s weaker points. Not detailed enough to stimulate the imagination, but too abstract to offer any specifics either. Simplicity affects the rhythm section too – they are consistent and do their job, but rarely jump out and excite. If you listen for it, sometimes there are some interesting bass lines with a nicely textured sound, but attention is never brought to it. The verse to “Saints & Sinners” has a nice slinking, bouncy line – one of the album’s most original songwriting moments. Matt Pearce and Chris Jones’ crystal clear guitars and Rundell’s haunting tones are worth these flaws though. The gentle, beautiful approach of the album’s late peak – hidden away at track nine – “Mistaken” is utterly jaw dropping.
They say a band has a few years to write its first album, and never gets that amount of time ever again. Voodoo Six and its predecessor band Dirty Deeds have been around for ages and ages though – this album is a bit late for a debut. Their veteran status collides with the vitality and originality of a debut album to devastating effect. This album’s songwriting team did not even make the recording of the album, and the band changed singer shortly afterwards so this gem is an utter one-off. Do not miss out on a modern day classic!