Review: Absolva – 'Never A Good Day To Die'

I first saw Absolva when they were plying their debut ‘Flames Of Justice’ album, and remember being blown away by the energy, the musical ability, and the quality of the songs. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the history… how Absolva was born from the ashes of Fury UK, and the three albums they had released under that moniker.

Since then, a lot has happened (including the obligatory line up changes… several actually, and backing Blaze Bayley), but without going into too much detail, here we are, in 2015, with things having gone full circle. Mainstays, Chris Appleton and Martin McNee, have been joined on this album by Luke Appleton (during an Iced Earth hiatus), and new full-time bassist, Karl Schramm, making his recording debut for Absolva on ‘Never A Good Day To Die’.

 Whenever I’ve tried to sum up the ‘Absolva’ sound to the uninitiated, my elevator pitch has been: “Imagine Jon Bon Jovi growing some balls and joining Iron Maiden!”. Given more time, I would expand to say that Absolva are a proud British Metal band, and as such, they eat NWOBHM and laxative for breakfast, and shit a flood melodies, chugs, hooks, and riffs, and Chris’ voice has that powerful rasp, just on the right side of straining to make the range. It’s a powerful combination.

 

‘Never A Good Day To Die’ takes all that has gone before, and pushes it to another level. Masterful songwriting, twin guitar attack, epic solos… this album could have been the follow up to ‘Piece Of Mind’! Classic. British. Metal!

 Some consideration has been given to the order of the tracks here.

‘Disguise’ kicks proceedings off with an unassuming acoustic intro, before the massive guitar kicks you in the bits as a warning for the full onslaught of high-tempo chugging, and a delightful chorus hook.

‘Killer Within’ delivers more of the same, but with more layers, and sublime twin guitar solo.

‘No One Escapes’ shows further progression, this time with an added gang vocal chorus. Chris’ solo contains more tricks than a Paul Daniels boxset!

Until now, Karl’s presence has been limited to some Harris-esgue wandering fills, but then comes ‘The Light’. The rhythm pairing of Schramm and McNee step up to the front to kick this one off. ‘The Light’ has a pulsating menace to the verses, supplied by the bass. Then comes the chorus, with a real ‘fuck, yeah!’ moment… you know what I mean… when you pick up on a nugget in the mix that brings a smile to your face? In this case, it’s just a guitar phrase, but it ‘makes’ the song for me… every time.

Title track, ‘Never A Good Day To Die’ brings the first half of the album to a climax, this time it’s McNee’s intense, rapid, and unrelenting bass foot driving the chug.

‘How Black Is My Heart’ is the post-climactic respite. Yes, the tempo is slower, but this is no soft-arsed ballad. There’s plenty of power here. In fact, the tempo ramps back up for a solo just as frantic, and as full of tricks as any on the album, at the midpoint, including some sweet twin guitar work, before bringing it all back down for the finale.

With ‘Transform’ normal service is resumed, the twist this time is that there’s more of an instrumental than a solo, per se.

‘No Tomorrow’ opens with an original, but instantly recognizable riff. The wandering bass fills during the instrumental section are a joy to behold.

‘Warrior Soldier’ and ‘Orphan Of God’ sound like a couple of album closers to me, so when I heard an extended acoustic piece, I was thinking it was just a nice way to tie the two ends of the album together, so getting a fully electrified slap around the chops after over a minute of being lulled in, doubled the impact of ‘All Alone’. Now THAT really is an album-closing track!

So, in summary, what have we got here? Well, if like me, ‘British Metal’ to you means well-crafted songs just long enough to fit in a killer riff or two, a catchy chorus, and a blistering solo, all knitted together with chugs and power, you need to get a hold of this album… NOW!

If, however, you prefer really long songs about airships, you might want to look elsewhere.

British Metal is alive and well. There will never be a good day for it to die!

Review: Rob Nankivell

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