Metallica’s forthcoming studio album ‘72 Seasons’ is set to be one of the biggest albums of 2023 regardless of genre. It will undoubtedly be the biggest seller in terms of physical units sold and will be the biggest-selling rock or metal album of 2023. If you judge the importance of an album by the sales it racks up then it will also be the most important rock or metal album of 2023. But in all honesty, Metallica could release a bucket of shit and it would still sell by the millions (‘St. Anger’, for example, sold a reported six million copies worldwide). If, however, you judge the importance of an album in different ways than units shifted – perhaps measured in what it brings to the scene – then there are two albums coincidently released on the same day that are just as important as studio album number eleven from ‘Tallica. Important because for the rock and metal scene to survive and evolve it needs new blood to punch through the ceiling held up by the old guard, and February 17th sees the release of a couple of crucial albums: ‘Dance Devil Dance’ from Swedish lunatics Avatar (somewhat surprisingly their ninth album), and ‘Inhale/Exhale’, album number three from Wales’s own Those Damn Crows.
Even Mr. Magoo himself couldn’t have missed the swell of approval surrounding Bridgend five-piece Those Damn Crows that has built up over the last five years or so. Approval built from the ground upward the old-fashioned way by making a connection and creating a fanbase through hard work rather than relying on hype and bullshit to carry you over the line. The Crow Family increases with each new single and album, each gig, each show-stealing festival appearance, and each episode of the hugely popular and enjoyable band-created videocast ‘CrowCast’. It’s a community, and a rapidly expanding one at that. And with ‘Inhale/Exhale’, Those Damn Crows have delivered something that perhaps was missing from the previous two albums – a truly international sound, and in particular, a transatlantic sound.
With producer Dan Weller (Enter Shikari, Monster Truck, Bury Tomorrow) and mixer Phil Gornell (Bring Me The Horizon, 5 Seconds Of Summer, You Me At Six) at the helm, The Crows have created an album that crosses over magnificently to the huge North American market and sounds perfect for an opening slot on one of Shinedown’s famously eclectic multi-band line-ups. Very easy to imagine tracks like the pulsating opener ‘Fill The Void’, ‘Wake Up (Sleepwalker)’, ‘I Am’, and the soaring ‘Takedown’ crashing out of the speakers in one of the many enormo-domes that Brent Smith and company occupy year in and year out. The belting ‘Takedown’ is just sitting there waiting on some WWE/AEW star making it their new intro music – very punchy indeed. ‘Man On Fire’ screams US radio, and if you are feeling a bit under the weather, then take two shots of this uplifting little beauty and call me in the morning. ‘This Time I’m Ready’ is a real head-turner of a track, one of those tracks that just when the listener seems to have it all figured out, performs a handbrake turn and goes off in a totally different direction and dazzles with every manoeuvre – the turn in pace and style around the three-minute mark is sublime (and totally unexpected).
The late-album pairing of ‘See You Again’ and ‘Lay It All On Me’ provides some standout moments on ‘Inhale/Exhale’; loving the tempo and feel of the Springsteen/Bryan Adams-like ‘See You Again’ which comes with a stunning chorus that begs to be screamed from the rooftops, and a nailed-on killer drum sound from the man behind the kit Ronnie Huxford; and then the darker, more brooding ‘Lay It All On Me’ which has a gorgeous Jerry Cantrell-like shimmering guitar sound on a track that really builds to something special. The guitar tones from Ian “Shiner” Thomas and David Winchurch on ‘Find A Way’ constantly impress (as per usual), although it is Lloyd Wood’s thick bass lines that just about steal the show on epic closing track ‘Waiting For Me’…that honour though goes to Crows vocalist Shane Greenhall who is simply breathtaking as he is on the entire album.
‘Inhale/Exhale’ is arguably the strongest offering to date from Those Damn Crows and very much an album of its times. It is modern sounding but without the overpowering production that blights so many albums today, it’s thought-provoking and easy to identify with, and it travels well. Rocklahoma Festival in the US announces its 2023 line-up very soon, and Those Damn Crows would not look out of place amongst the bill. One can only dream. Pity the poor buggers that would need to follow them though.
‘Inhale/Exhale’ is available now via Earache Records, more information here.
Review – Dave
Photo credit – Dean Chalkley
Headline tour dates:
Fri 17th Feb – LEEDS Key Club SOLD OUT
Sat 18th Feb – MANCHESTER Academy 2 UPGRADED SOLD OUT
Sun 19th Feb – NEWCASTLE Riverside SOLD OUT
Tue 21st Feb – GLASGOW The Garage LOW TICKETS
Wed 22nd Feb – BRADFORD Nightrain SOLD OUT
Fri 24th Feb – LONDON Islington Assembly Hall SOLD OUT
Sat 25th Feb – SWANSEA Arena LOW TICKETS
Fri 17th Feb (Leeds show day) – Crash Records, Leeds at 2pm SOLD OUT
Sat 18th Feb (Manchester show day) – HMV, Manchester at 2pm LOW TICKETS
Sun 19th Feb (Newcastle show day) – Reflex Records, Newcastle at 2pm SOLD OUT
Mon 20th Feb – Assai Records, Edinburgh at 7pm LOW TICKETS
Tue 21st Feb (Glasgow show day) – LOVEMUSIC, Glasgow at 2pm LOW TICKETS
Wed 22nd Feb (Bradford show day) – The Record Cafe, Bradford at 1pm LOW TICKETS
Thu 23rd Feb – Rough Trade, Nottingham at 6pm SOLD OUT
Fri 24th Feb (London show day) – Flashback, London (Islington) at 1pm SOLD OUT
Sat 25th Feb – HMV, Swansea at 2pm NEW DATE ADDED
Tue 28th Feb – Rough Trade, Bristol at 6:30pm LOW TICKETS
Wed 1st Mar – Phase One, Liverpool at 7pm NEW DATE ADDED
Thu 2nd Mar – HMV, Cardiff at 6pm NEW DATE ADDED
Fri 3rd Mar – Pryzm, Kingston at 7pm (Banquet Records Outstore – Full Band Electric Show)