Five Horse Johnson
The Taking Of Blackheart


4.0
excellent

Review

by Raul Stanciu STAFF
January 12th, 2013 | 19 replies


Release Date: 01/29/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The return of Five Horse Johnson.

Five Horse Johnson's latest record, The Taking Of Black Heart, comes after a 6 year gap during which the band members all took some time off to work on several projects. All that time off gave the members lots of ideas to work on, creating their most focused and mature record yet (possibly their best, too).

For those unfamiliar with them, Five Horse Johnson play some great, dirty stoner and Southern rock influenced hard rock blues. They draw a lot of their influences from '70s blues rockers such as ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd or Aerosmith, among others. Churning some of their best tunes yet, FHJ sound real tight without becoming too serious about it. Vocalist Eric Oblander has some really sharp harmonica leads, best heard on highlights like "Mexico", "Quick On The Trigger" or "Smash & Grab". He, together with drummer Jean-Paul Gaster's (of Clutch fame, who returns to perform on the entire effort), whose classic rock influences are imprinted all over, ride the album for its' entire span. The rest of the band is just as effective, throwing some cool, old fashioned, fat grooves on songs like "Black Heart Baby", "Shoot My Way Out" or "Beating In My Hand".

Even though The Taking Of Black Heart is considered a concept album, the story line is unclear, but that's the least of the worries, as the music is the one truly capturing the listener's ears. There's a lot to love here, especially such foot stomping shuffles like "Black Heart Baby" and "Keep On Diggin'" that really give the impression the band's playing live in front of you. Then there are the laid back, cruisin' rockers, "Mexico", "Quick On The Trigger" and "Smash & Grab" that work perfectly on a smooth desert ride on a hot summer day. The vocals interplay between Oblander and guitar player Brad Coffin gives the songs different vibes, while the music unleashes itself.

There are also more contemplative, somber moments such as "Hangin' Tree" or the closer "Die In A River", giving the album a more serious tone. However, they are as powerful as the other tunes and have some great hooks. There is even a guest appearance from Cheap Trick's very own Robin Zander singing a cover of Rod Stewart's "You're My Girl". It really feels like band has a lot of fun doing it and they just go wild with the guitars and harmonica leads, turning this song into a great, unexpected jam.

One might fear that The Taking Of Black Heart would fall at one point into a trap that a lot of blues rock records found themselves over the years, becoming a bit too formulaic, with lots of blues by-the-numbers. However, Five Horse Johnson take these variations as the basic foundation for the songs, enriching them with various elements, most notably Oblander's harmonica leads and Gaster's varied drumming. They also avoid sounding like Clutch, as the two aforementioned members played and play, respectively, with them, by dabbling more into the blues. Still, they have their similarities, heard at best on "Quick On The Trigger", but all of them are positive.

At the end of the day, The Taking Of Black Heart is an early contender for the best hard rock/blues record of the year. It works great as a cohesive unit and with or without a clear story line, it's easy for anyone to get caught into the album's Western themed universe. Let's just hope it won't take the band another 6 years to release new material.



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user ratings (8)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A really cool and fun record. It grew on me even more while writing the review.
The record will be physically released on January 29, through Small Stone, but it has been available for streaming and downloading for at least a couple of months now.
It can be streamed here - http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/the-taking-of-blackheart
Constructive criticism appreciated.

Digging: Electric Wizard - Time to Die

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

My favorite blues rock band at the moment. The record rules! Great review!

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really dig it. These guys are so good. I think it's their best so far, but very close to The Mystery Spot and No. 6 Dance. I've started listening to Clutch lately too, especially From Beale Street To Oblivion. They're really cool.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


4435 Comments


Really good work here, insomniac. This was a real fun listen. POS'd.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm glad you like it, it's a strong record. Thanks. You should check out Clutch - From Beale Street To Oblivion if you haven't, it's great. It features Oblander on harmonica on some tracks.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

From Beale Street To Oblivion is one of Clutch's weakest albums imo, it's still quite good though.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


4435 Comments


I know about Clutch. They're good too. Hopefully this gets featured.

YoYoMancuso
January 12th 2013


11113 Comments


nice review, pos. Album sounds interesting might check

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks. It's really great blues rock mixed with some heavier stoner/southern rock stuff.
@Paperback - I hope they'll feature it so people notice it. It's been 6 years since their last record, some might think they've disbanded or something. I haven't listened much to Clutch, but that record sounds cool. I'll have to get other efforts too.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Why the hell isn't it more popular on here? The Clutch fans should definitely check it out.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I saw that Sputnik doesn't have such a big stoner/southern rock community.

DrGunther
January 17th 2013


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, pos'd. Some killer tracks on here.

Not heard much Clutch as they don't click with me for some reason (everything points to the fact they should fucking do, but they don't!), this is similar to Left Lane Cruiser or Fatso Jetson to my ears.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks! I have listened to Clutch more than ever lately. They're good but a bit exhaustive. This record is easier for me to enjoy, it's dirty fun.

DrGunther
January 17th 2013


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I haven't given up on them. Every similar sort of band they get compared to I pretty much like, but for some reason they didn't grab me. Only heard Blast Tyrant once and Elephant Riders a couple of times, so will give them another go.

Can anyone save me the hassle and give me a brief summary of their albums? I really like the track "Ship of Gold" if that helps.

DrGunther
January 17th 2013


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh yeah, and that Brant Bjork album you reviewed the other day is another good one, cheers!

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


7397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Robot Hive/Exodus is my favorite Clutch album and probably my favorite stoner rock record ever.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My band mates are bigger Clutch fans. I have yet to listen to Robot Hive/Exodus and Clutch. I will, because I've heard only great things about them.
Glad you liked Punk Rock Guilt, DrGunther. I wish he released something new as a solo act, but right now he's focusing on Kyuss Lives (now Vista Chino).

DrGunther
January 18th 2013


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Coming from you Greg, that's a big statement! Will defo give 'em another spin at some point.

"but right now he's focusing on Kyuss Lives (now Vista Chino)."
Yeah, I see they changed their name the other day, no doubt Homme's legal team have been in action. Wish he'd get his arse in gear and release some more QotSA/TCV instead of worrying about the old Kyuss lot, as he's supposedly moved on to bigger things (not necessarily better though...).

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2013


3421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

As far as I know, him and Scott Reeder sued them together at one point. I understand him because it's Kyuss' legacy and he wants it intact. Like he said, if you weren't there, well you weren't. On the other hand, Bjork, Garcia and Oliveri were key members at one point so it's nice to hear new stuff coming from 3/4 Kyuss. I don't mind the name change because the music should be great.



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