Album review: THE BLACK MARBLES – Made In Concrete

The Black Marbles

TBM productions/New Music [Release date: 08.03.13]

Described as ‘a mix of swag, groove, energy, heart & soul with their own take on rock ‘n’ roll’,  70’s influenced Swedish rockers The Black Marbles wear their retro influences on their sleeve in a search for their own style.

The Gothenburg based outfit obviously have one eye on the German rock market and to that end they’ve penned several barn-burning songs that rely on familiar hooks, riffs and shreds with an array of musical influences that takes in Bon Jovi, several big hair 80’s bands and the Bad Company, Free and Zeppelin era for their inspiration.

At times they almost suffocate under the weight of their derivative influences, but in Kaj Paxeus they have a lung busting vocalist with a great range and a phrasing ability that brings gravitas to bear on even the most clichéd of outings. Guitarist Philip Karlsson also adds a mix of steely riffs, mellifluous shreds and climatic solos over a busy rhythm section that is powered by the tom toms and cymbal splashes of Tobbe Bovik.

So far so good, but barely less than a minute into the opening track ‘Night & Day’ they dip into the hypnotic Stones ‘whoo hoo’ refrain from ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. It’s the first of several retro influences that threaten to obscure rather than clarify the band’s musical vision.

There’s also a familiar Faces electric piano line on the slide-led ‘Loveshine’, and a languid Pink Floyd intro to their best effort, the climactic rock ballad ‘Good Lovin’. Kaj in his element on a great hook as Philip Karlsson adds an imperious solo to a resolute finish that fades all too quickly.

Karlsson indulges himself with some Skynyrd meets Keith Richard riffing on ‘Lovin’ Kind’ and the band add a Zeppelin feel on ‘Don’t Fade Away’, as Kaj’s phrasing sounds like a cross between Robert Plant and Axl Rose.

It takes both musical ability and balls to pull it off and after several replays ‘Made In Concrete’ starts to take shape, though it’s not until the penultimate track ‘Poor Boy Blues’ that Tobbe Bovik’s production finally nails the band’s essential sound.  He beautifully melds the vocals and guitar within a wall of sound anchored by Krister Selander’s ripping bass lines as part of a muscular rhythm patterns.

If ‘Good Lovin’ provides them with an anthem, then ‘Poor Boy Blues’ is an archetypal rocker. Such is the power of the track that is makes the closing cover of ‘The Stealer’ no more than a Paul Rogers vocal exercise for Kaj.

As the title suggests, ‘Made In Concrete’ is a rock solid effort that could bring The Black Marbles wide spread appeal on the festival circuit.  It may be few original ideas short of being a great album, but it’s a fine debut by a band that surely has a lot more to offer.

*** (3/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra

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