FUCK the system! Fuck the music business, and fuck the people that say hard rock and metal is dead. There is a vital, pounding pulse coming out of Northern Ireland, a 10-legged monster of rock and metal that is about to crush all in its path. It’s Maverick, and it is coming your way. With a proven live track record, always giving their all, the question is can that energy translate on to recorded output. Can that beautiful rock and metal alchemy Maverick delivers on stage be captured in the studio?
Of course it can! Aided by a superb production and mix from Neal Calderwood this is high octane hard rock. As the scene setter ‘Event Horizon’ merges into ‘Snakeskin Sinner’ the intent is clear. Powerful riffing, shouted backing vocals and David Balfour sneering at the archetypal poseur. Ryan Sebastian Balfour’s solo, and Ric Cardwell’s rhythm work meld together adding a powerful dynamic to the sound; laying out all the tricks of double guitar interplay that area apparent throughout. Already familiar thanks to the video release ‘Paint By Numbers’ is a fist in the face of hipsters, scenesters, fashionistas and the two-legged lemmings of the world. Perhaps the biggest blow to the bake is in the songs construction; its a juggernaut of big sounds, fist pumping delight.
’Got It Bad’ is where listener has to make up their mind, and where some may shy away from Maverick. It is a great song, and had it been released in the mid-80s it would have been on constant rotation on AM radio in the US. The listener has to decide at this point to commit to the ethos of Maverick. Leave aside their hard work, their outstanding live presence, do we need another band who sonically re-treads the sound of Ratt, Crue, MTV-era Whitesnake, Love/Hate, Y&T etc? Is this repeat, rewind, repeat living in the past? Some will write Maverick off in this manner. Their mistake.
The band glory in their influences, wearing their love for that ‘big’ sound that Bob Rock brought to Motley Crue and Black album Metallica. Calderwood has captured that and the five strong Maverick men pump their chests out, wear their influences on their sleeve and get on with having a good time with great songs. Damn it, but ‘Got It Bad’ is as catchy as Ebola in Sierra Leone; a super performance in all ways. But the heart of the matter of homage is dealt with on ‘In Our Blood’ as David declares he would “put all my CDs on and have a concert in my room’; and that when the music is playing “I feel alive”. This is the song that captures all the dreams of every rock and metal fan – air guitar, singing along, pulling all the poses. Maverick are now living that dream. They are on the cusp of something great. After that declaration the track ‘One More Day (Quid Pro Quo)’ deals with more serious matters in a narration of the real personal toll the conflict in Northern Ireland takes. Musically and lyrically this is an empathetic song, which chooses to talk about murder in the name of a cause the killers don’t understand from the point of view of the victim. This song is the fulcrum, the point in the album when it is clear that this is a band with more depth than just 80’s re-treads; it is the song where Maverick prove that they can construct songs that pull together talents of David and Ryan Sebastian Balfour, Rick Cardwell, Riche Diver (bass) and Mike Ross’s drums into a cohesive, solid manner. From that point they return to the theme of love and lust, with the joyously daft cock strut of ‘Electric’. Already a live favourite, early Tesla comes to mind with a distinctive Northern Ireland tongue in cheek smirk. Similarly
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady’ tackles love yearnings. Kicking off with Ross’s drum line, before the guitars build into a riff that wannabes in the late 80s and early 90s would kill for and backing vocals that are right out of the pages of the gold-plated hard rock playbook. In the 1980s such music wasn’t divided into genres, and was all considered to be metal in the’loosest sense. The solos on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady’ harken to an earlier era of UFO and Thin Lizzy, and to many will sound metal against the hard rockin’ back drop.
’Shackled’ on the other hand is a straight up merging of metal/rock. The strut of other songs replaced with a more considered approach as David rails against injustice and the guitar has an almost onomatopoeic echo of the anguish of the wrongly convicted. This is much musical narrative as it is a lyrical narrative. Therein lies the success of this release. Whether it be the lusting or the longing; whether it is ranting or the wrongdoing of paramilitaries; or whether it is jut heads down hard rockin’ Maverick know that telling the tale within each song is about composition and depth. Sure, you can just listen on a superficial level (which unfortunately some will), but take on board all elements of each song as a whole and you will find all the parts are pulling in the same direction. The verse of ‘Last Addiction’ has a touch of SLF/Rudi/Outcasts about it, before the pre-chorus and chorus bring it back to the hard rock theme, with a stand-out backing vocal and melody section. Strutting out of the speakers like Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx on steroids
‘Side By Side’ is about brotherhood, loyalty and a fist hoisted in the air to watching each other’s back in the most desperate situations. Anthemic at times, and all wrapped up in an arrangement suited to the subject matter. Album closer ‘Took The Night’ is perhaps the most derivative of the tracks, with Y&T’s influence and a smidgeon of Reo Speedwagon lurking about the song. It would be easy to write it off on that basis, but ultimately this is Maverick putting a middle finger to the naysayers, the doubters and the devious bastards. It is about declaring their love of that era. It is a simply five-minutes plus of angst, without an emo sentiment – seemingly a very personal translation: Regret and remorse are echoed by a sympathetic arrangement where the sound and vibe of the 80s is a comfort in difficult times.. In many ways, as ‘One More Day’ is the fulcrum, ‘Took The Night’ is the definition of Maverick right now. They have taken the hard rock genre and added a clear dose of 2014 technical expertise, tight playing and feelings. Yes, feelings. Each song on the album appears to be derived from experiences both personal and in a wider context; emotions and observations that help it rise above much that is out there. In the final analysis it is a great début from Maverick. It is chest thumping, raucous, powerful, pounding, melodic and oozing passion. This is an album that will make people sit up and notice. If there is justice in the music world there will be a clamour from across the globe to share this awesome album. Full marks for this release.
Quid Pro Quo is released on November 28th on Massacre Records
The album launch party is in Belfast’s Empire Music Hall on November 27th, with Maverick headlining and support from Conjuring Fate.
Cover by Gerard Torbitt
Review by Jonathan Traynor
A lifelong Metalhead and prolific reviewer, Jonathan is a part of the team here at Devils Gate Media. Since 2006, Jonathan has been the owner of BELFAST METALHEADS REUNITED.
Check out Jonathan’s blog for more album and gig reviews.]]>