Review: Blues Pills – ‘Holy Moly!’

After quite a major personnel upheaval with guitarist, Dorian Sorriaux leaving for pastures new, and bassist/co-founder Zack Anderson moving from four to six strings, Blues Pills had a ready-made get-out-jail-free card if required. Thankfully, it’s not needed and it goes back to the bottom of the pile, for ‘Holy Moly!’ is the aural equivalent of owning both Park Lane and Mayfair, and having hotels on each.

After the well-received self-titled debut, the follow-up ‘Lady In Gold’ seemed to split the Blues Pills faithful. One of those albums that requires time and patience i.e. repeat listens, ‘Lady In Gold’ is a slow-burner. Studio album number three ‘Holy Moly!’ is instant. The exclamation mark in the album title is there for a reason; according to Google, “An exclamation mark is used to show when something is surprising or forceful”. The perfect description of ‘Holy Moly!’ then.

Relentless touring took its toll on the band and ‘Holy Moly!’ is the sound of a band reinvigorated after a brief hiatus. Self-recorded in their own analogue studio Lindbacka Sounds, it’s hard not to smile when hearing the genuine thrill in Elin Larsson’s voice when opening track ‘Proud Woman’ kicks in. Drummer André Kvarnström sets the pace with an ultra-groovy drum sound which raises the roof when paired with the cool licks from bassist Kristoffer Schander. It’s a soulful, groovy way to start the album and Anderson gives a wonderfully understated performance throughout the three minutes. Then all hell breaks loose on ‘Low Road’. An instant slap across the cheeks, it’s a whirling maelstrom of fuzzy guitar effects, Ian Paice-like precision drumming, and lashings of Elin Larsson, who in all honesty gives the performance of her life on this piece of magic.

With its gentle, shimmering pace ‘California’ slows things down a notch or two, and Larsson delivers one of her trademark vocal performances which usually results in Janis Joplin comparisons, a comparison richly deserved. Kvarnström is back on show-stealing duties during the pulsating ‘Rhythm In The Blood’, which should no doubt prove to be a killer live track if and when this damn virus fucks off. Anderson gives yet another stellar performance on lead guitar, and just as the listener is getting their groove on, the track bleeds directly into the dark and brooding ‘Dust’.

The fuzzy ‘Kiss My Past Goodbye’, which comes complete with shamanic-like vocal chants, and a blistering drum sound (again) from that man Kvarnström, is delicious and perhaps comes closest to the sound of the debut album. Larsson shines on the beautiful ‘Wish I’d Known’ and delivers a heartfelt performance which echoes greats like Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, a genuine tour-de-force moment which reinforces the opinion that Larsson is one of the shining lights of the retro-rock genre. The gentler pacing continues on the piano-driven intro of ‘Song From A Mourning Dove’, which washes over the listener before the band crashes in to give them a rude awakening. Oodles of guitar fireworks on this atmospheric gem of a track as Anderson coaxes some jaw-dropping tones out of his axe. In places, quite sublime.

After cranking up ‘Holy Moly!’ the temptation to state; “Blues Pills are back”, is quite hard to resist. But, yes, Blues Pills are back, and ‘Holy Moly!’ is a doozy.

Available now through Nuclear Blast Records

Review – Dave

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