Review: South Of Salem – ‘Death Of The Party’

Bournemouth-based outfit South Of Salem are not hanging around on their sophomore album ‘Death Of The Party’. No settling in period, no breaking the listener in gently. When the needle drops (do check out the gorgeous splatter vinyl available) and the opening track ‘Vultures’ kicks in, it is as immediate, as full-on, and as in-your-face as a rock album gets. SOS drummer James Clarke (part of a muscular engine room team with bassist Dee Vower) must be getting paid per hit because he is putting in one hell of a shift and that kick-drum pedal is in danger of bursting into flames. Once the vocals from Joey Draper land, the song slows down a gear or two and settles into an extremely catchy slice of expertly crafted hard rock music complete with spooky arrangements and thrilling twin-guitar melodies mixed with razor-sharp riffage. And when Draper spits out “…you didn’t want me at my worst, so you can’t have me at my best…” the listener is privy to the frontman getting some unnamed figures firmly in the crosshairs. A strong opening 4 minutes and a superb way to shoot down in flames the very notion of a second album being difficult.

With its Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry “isms” (the guitar intro is especially Mark Tremonti-like) ‘Static’ brings more of an American feel to the party, and it’s not that much of a stretch imagining South Of Salem blasting this one out at a festival such as Rocklahoma or Welcome To Rockville, on the same bill as either of the bands named above along with the likes of Disturbed, Godsmack and Shinedown. There is, however, enough of the South Of Salem DNA within the song to give it that edge over so many young UK acts who can often break out the cookie-cutter when it comes to both Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry.

‘Jet Black Eyes’ has the Gothic horror aesthetics ramped up to the max and with music being crucial to the hit TV show ‘Wednesday’, perhaps someone will be savvy enough to pitch ‘Jet Black Eyes’ to the soundtrack curators of the second season? Ditto ‘Stitch the Wound’ and the more commercial strains of ‘Hellbound Heart’. Whilst not in Ville Valo, Andy Black, or Peter Steele territory, there is enough heart, and swoon factor to Draper’s vocals to get the black mascara streaming.

It’s no coincidence that ‘Left For Dead’ occupies the position of track 5 of 10 as it is the anchor of the album. Full of huge vocal hooks and gorgeous twin-guitar melodies – isolate the vocals, bass, and drums and it’s impossible not to pick up on how much of an influence (conscious, or not) Thin Lizzy still are today – ‘Left For Dead’ is the standout moment on a very strong album, and one that highlights the progression of a band that only played their first gig in 2020.

The album ends in much the same way that it opens: full of confidence. The title track is another highlight and the chorus-line/nursery rhyme gang vocals peppered throughout are hugely effective, with the riffs and guitar solos (courtesy of Kodi Kasper and Denis Sheriff) being especially noteworthy, as are the Slash-tastic strains throughout ‘A Life Worth Dying For’, which could be a Duff-led GNR newbie.

Honestly, someone needs to get these guys Stateside as the Yanks would love South Of Salem.

‘Death Of The Party’ is available now on South Of Salem’s own label (Spider Party Records). The band has a few upcoming Record Store unplugged appearances, find out more here.

Full live dates:

Feb 02: Porthcawl Planet Rock Winter’s End
Feb 09: Buckley Tivoli
Feb 10: Carlisle Rockmantic Fest
Feb 11: Blackpool Love Life Festival
Apr 06: Torquay The Foundry (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 12: Southampton Engine Rooms (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 13: Wolverhampton KK’s Steel Mill (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 14: Manchester Academy 2 (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 17: Glasgow The Garage (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 18: Newcastle Boilershop (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 19: Nottingham Rock City (w/ Kris Barras Band)
Apr 20: London Islington Assembly (w/ Kris Barras Band)
May 04: Bradford Bradstock Festival
May 24-26: Lincolnshire Call Of The Wild Fest
Jul 27: Brighton Hammerdown Festival
Aug 08-Aug 11: Walton-on-Trent Bloodstock
Aug 09: Stockport Firevolt Festival
Nov 07: Great Yarmouth HRH Festival

Review – Dave

Photo credit – Scott Chalmers

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