SPV [Release date 23.02.15]
UFO are another of our “heritage” bands who for the past few years have toured consistently and released new albums. In short, they are still relevant. And, arguably, ‘A Conspiracy Of Stars’ is their best offering since at least 1995′s ‘Walk On Water’.
In a live situation they do tend to hang on to the ‘Strangers In the Night’ setlist as a sort of comfort blanket but they don’t really need it. When I saw them in March 2012 they had the good taste to include ‘Venus’ from that 1995 album. That track has become a firm personal favourite of mine (and my GRTR! colleague Alan Jones) and allowed re-appraisal of a sometimes overlooked 1990s masterpiece.
The new album is a more consistent set of tunes than previous outing ‘Seven Deadly’ (2012) and ‘The Visitor’ and to be honest it sets the bar at stratospheric levels for heavy rock in 2015.
Whether this is due to the larger Vinnie Moore input (in terms of the songwriting at least), it can be no coincidence. What I like about this album – and it’s usually present in varying degrees – it’s full of darkness/danger fostered by Phil Mogg’s life-on-the-edge persona.
Mogg watchers will want to dissect his way with words (“I’m gonna love you/I got a kiss just like a killer bee/Someone to roll you/Climbing up on your cherry tree), whilst the musicianship – Moore especially – is exemplary. Moore isn’t as flamboyant and more measured than Schenker but he stamps his mark all over this album.
The opener ‘The Killing Kind’ is fairly rudimentary rock and roll but ‘Run Boy Run’ really rocks and highlights Mogg’s knowing “with-age-comes-experience” vocal. ‘Ballad Of The Left Hand Gun’ is another great bluesy hard rocker and it sounds like this is a band on a mission.
Another great feature of these songs – they are not especially formulaic. There’s some great – perhaps surprising – breakdown riffing in ‘Run Boy Run’, ‘Messiah Of Love’ and ‘Rollin’ Rollin’. Maybe this is the influence of “veteran” producer Chris Tsangerides who has given the band their head of steam.
There’s not really a duffer on this album, perhaps only that opener and ‘The Real Deal’ sound a little laboured and the fairly perfunctory ‘One And Only’ is then lifted by the following ‘Messiah Of Love’ – with its wonderful funky riffage firmly to the fore – and ‘Rollin’ Rollin’ which plays the album out in fine style and with ear-catching “orchestral” fills.
The album’s full of lots of little detail and nice touches. Standouts abound: ‘Sugar Cane’ has a wonderful relentless riff and a fantastic coda, ‘Devil’s In The Detail’ is both very commercial and contains another superb guitar workout, whilst ‘Precious Cargo’ lowers the pace slightly for one of Mogg’s best vocals. Credit too to Messrs. Raymond, Parker and De Luca who shine throughout.
Let’s hope the band fully feature ‘A Conspiracy Of Stars’ during their European tour starting in Germany on 20 February (UK from 16 April). It deserves their unbridled focus and demands your undivided attention. *****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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