Inglorious’ star is rising nicely – little over a year after their debut album had them voted best newcomers in many end of year polls, and after a series of high profile touring opportunities, they have swiftly followed up with a second self titled album, which only just missed the national top 20 and for which this was a one-off ‘launch’ gig.
Scanning the queue and the packed crowd inside my favourite London venue at the moment, it was clear that their youthful take on the very best of classic British heavy rock – Whitesnake, DIo, Purple, Rainbow et al – appeals both to a new generation of fans, with a healthy female quota, and those of us who cut our musical teeth on this type of music first time round.
There was the bonus of two support acts although the first Gypsy Heart was just an acoustic duo of singer Heather Leoni and guitarist Ali Clinton. Heather has a strong, powerful voice – on ‘Wolf Pack’ her soaring tones even reminded me of the great Ann Wilson – and the confidence to attempt a band singalong. It was all very listenable but being unfamiliar with the material meant I felt I had to suspend judgement before seeing them in full band format.
Next up were Mason Hill, the young Scots who have been building such a buzz that they are newly signed to Frontiers Records’ star-studded roster. They certainly made a very striking introduction with a taped piano intro and singer Scott Taylor coming on stage first before the band kicked in to opener ‘Walk Out That Door’. I heard hints of Sabbath and Zeppelin but with a dark downtuned feel that reminded me more of Audioslave than anything. Lead guitarist James Bird was impressive throughout with a touch of Doug Aldrich in his full on Les Paul playing.
The band’s flailing hair and stage moves mean they already look the part, while Scott has a gritty voice shot through with typically Scottish gravel. Though the music was a tad grungy for my own liking, the songs were highly accomplished, be they more accessible previous singles ‘Survive’ and ‘Now You See Me’ or darker, angrier new material like ‘No Regret’.
A solitary cover in Mountain’s ‘Mississippi Queen’ also paid homage to their influences, but, after a dedication to Chris Cornell, their crowning glory was closing song ‘Where I Belong’, which built from a quiet introspective intro into an epic with a long, almost Gilmourian solo from James. It was easy to imagine them being the next young band to follow Inglorious into the big league.
Taking the stage to the Grandstand theme tune, Inglorious had little to prove to an adoring audience and indeed, as they opened with one of the less impressive new songs in ‘Read All About It’, people seemed instantly familiar with it despite the album only being a week old. Helped by the excellent venue set up, their stage craft and musical tightness have taken a step forward even since I last saw them in the winter.
The gig was swiftly brought to the boil with a couple of debut album favourites, ‘Breakaway’ coming over like a supercharged version of Mark 3 Deep Purple from the moment Andreas Eriksson struck up the introductory riff and ‘High Flying Gypsy’ reminding me of Dio.
However for a one off gig billed as an album launch, it was inevitable that new songs should predominate and both ‘Black Magic’ and the more dynamic ‘Make Me Pay’ both had a classic seventies feel to them.
Though very much a band project, former reality show hopeful and Trans Siberian Orchestra vocalist Nathan James will always be the focal point with his leonine appearance and a voice that combines the deep throaty blues of a prime time Coverdale with effortless high pitched screams.
He cut a flamboyant figure with his bling and fringed jacket, yet there is something endearing and even slightly camp in his between song persona, of the naughty schoolboy with a Berkshire burr who cannot quite believe the success that has come to him.
I only had the opportunity to listen to the new album once before the show and first impressions were that the brilliant sound and vibe was not matched by the quality of the songwriting, but the likes of ‘Hell Or High Water’ and in particular ‘Taking The Blame’ really came to life on stage. More familiar material sat alongside those making their live debuts, with the rapid fire ‘Warning’ and the mystic eastern sounds of their eponymous track.
The retro nature of the band was further confirmed when the powerful rhythm section of Colin Parkinson and Phil Beaver – a cult figure with his straggly beard and chantable name – even had a solo slot, though I did wonder if Bruce Dickinson’s lawyers were listening in when Nathan joyfully shouted ‘Scream For Me Islington’ on more than one occasion.
In an unexpected acoustic segment, they paid tribute to Chris Cornell with a cover of ‘Black Hole Sun’, Nathan singing admirably even if perhaps the song was not in his natural style, followed by ‘Burn’. Now this was a gamble, given that the band are belatedly shaking off scepticism over the fact they initially used covers to obtain an record deal, but one that paid off in the most thrilling style as it was slowed down and reimagined in a way that was both authentic but gave a new twist on an overplayed classic.
By now, with first album favourite ‘Girl Got A Gun’ and Nathan announcing an autumn tour including a London date at the much bigger Electric Ballroom, it was fair to say there was something of a party atmosphere.
They closed with the last two songs on the album which for me eclipsed what has gone before: ‘Faraway’ is their closest yet to a Dio-era Rainbow style epic, while ‘High Class Woman’ was insanely catchy, both with a chorus that owes much to Kiss’ ‘Uh! All Night’, and a guitar refrain from Andreas which was almost as good as a second chorus. While never seeking the limelight, the guitar work of the Swede in the Bavarian style feathered hat was outstanding throughout and complements Nathan’s throaty roar perfectly.
The encores maintained the pace and the way people sang along to ‘I Don’t Want Your Lovin’ suggests the first single from the new album has instantly become a crowd favourite, before ‘Holy Water’ stripped the pace right down in bluesy fashion.
I heard Nathan’s voice from off stage and turned round to see him making his way from the back of the hall through an adoring audience while there was an extended double guitar solo, Andreas giving way to Drew Lowe for his first of the night. The returning second guitarist played a low key but effective role stage left and frankly provides a better visual fit than his predecessor.
Finally, the fast and furious ‘Until I Die’, once their set opener, concluded a set that can now fill the headliners’ union rate of an hour and a half.
For a number of reasons, it was a memorable one-off show. With added songs and growing assurance on the bigger stages, by the time the autumn tour comes around Inglorious will be even better placed to take their place in the big league.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Paul Clampin
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