Album review: AUSTIN GOLD – Before Dark Clouds

Pete Feenstra chatted to Austin Gold for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio and an hour feature was first broadcast on Monday 9 October 2017.

AUSTIN GOLD - Before Dark Clouds

Jigsaw [Release date 01.09.17]

Peterborough’s Austin Gold are well placed to tap into the current resurgence of interest in 70′s British classic rock.  One of a growing new generation of blues rockers, five piece rock blues outfit Austin Gold, from Cambridgeshire, have been attracting plaudits and growing a fervent following playing festivals and smaller gigs all across the UK.

Formed by vocalist David James Smith in 2013 with Jack Cable (guitar), Chris Ogden (drums), Russ Hill (keys), and Lee Churchill (bass) the band stick to a fairly tried and tested formula rooted in the period 1967 through to 1975.

Their debut album ‘Before Dark Clouds’ is built on the rock solid foundations of great riff songs with booming hooks and spirited playing, but it’s their retro glance over the shoulder that seals the deal.

Think of the way King King have co-opted best elements of Free, the original Whitesnake and Thunder to mould them into something all of their own. Austin Gold draw on similar era of music, but craft their own impressive songs with the stadium swagger of Albany Down and the vigour of Federal Charm, on an album stamped through with their own DNA, just like a stick of rock.

It’s the band’s collective writing that is the key and makes the material sound like a real band, a fact beautifully captured by Andy Hawkins’s warm production.

Listen to the cleverly titled and hugely impressive opening cut ‘Brand New Low’ and you are hearing a surprisingly mature band with a focussed musical direction and the chops to realize their artistic ambitions.

The bone crunching riffs of ‘Another Kinda Bad’ finds them slipping into hard rock mode with significant chord changes and the kind of sweeping melodic chorus that might even provide peripheral interest to what’s left of rock station play lists.

Vocalist David James Smith has the range and vision to attack songs in refreshingly different ways to highlight the bands musical diversity. He’s also a dab hand at mining subtle dynamics, while his ability to holler and whoop effortlessly transforms a mundane song into something epic.

In particular, Smith’s soulful vocals are reminiscent of those of Paul Rodgers, and Cable’s guitar licks are engrained with Hendrix’s unique style, while the rhythm section kick in like those of Free, Bad Co and Zeppelin.  Russell Hill’s Hammond adds grandeur and contributes to a wall of sound that pushes tracks such as ‘Home Against Home’ – complete with a very familiar opening guitar figure -  into post Floydian prog influences.

A mix of rockers and ballads in fairly equal measure, Austin Gold are at their best when pushing their collective feet to the metal (the ballads are a fairly standard fayre, despite being more than convincingly performed), and had they been around in ‘the day’ the band would have been the perfect fit for a deal with Swansong Records.

And it’s the band’s ability to mould coherent material into different, but musically related fields that make this album so refreshing.

The title track also suggests a band with real maturity and poise. The mid- tempo funky opening groove features a more restrained vocal from Smith, as the band lets the song percolate before heading into a sing-along hook. Better still, there’s a lovely mid number segue – separated by a small, but pregnant pause between Smith confident phasing and Cable’s ascending Gilmour style solo – on a triumph of flow and artistic vision.

Like many of the songs here, there’s a bigger picture at play, which the band take great delight in colouring with their spirited playing and sharp arrangements.

They rock out on ‘Roadside’, a number that has a great stop-time hook and a gnawing guitar solo and it will surely soon become a live staple.

The following ‘All The Way Down’ illustrates their melodic bent and highlights Smith’s vocal prowess, before a southern rock style double harmony guitar break and a gentle drop down.

The ten track musical journey initially draws the listener in with compelling riffs, but grows into something bigger with enveloping hooks and ebullient solos, before finishing in almost meditative fashion.

Austin Gold have a bright future with real crossover potential. ‘Before Dark Clouds’ is built on solid rock/blues foundations, from which the band explore southern rock and reach for the sky with epic prog rock bursts, only to effect a smooth landing on a West Coast harmony finish of ‘Never Come Back.’

Such is their impact that the subtly arranged piece leaves you wanting more and heading for the replay button.

It’s rare for a new band to nail their style so early in their career, but ‘Before Dark Clouds’ ticks all the right boxes. On the one hand it’s an old fashioned album that flows from beginning to end to become a coherent composite. On the other hand, there’s enough variety here to satisfy the download generation’s penchant for individual tracks. Austin Gold are holding all the right cards, they’re just a good shuffle away from achieving something very special. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra
Additional material:  Pete Whalley

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 7 September 2021.

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