Nuclear Blast [Release date 21.08.20]
Blues Pills have always scored highly with GRTR! reviewers. John Stefanis was bowled over by their ‘next best thing [to the 70s]‘ 2014 eponymous debut, while Jason Ritchie considered their 2016 follow up Lady In Gold ‘one of the better blues/rock/soul albums you’ll hear in that or any other year’.
And I have to admit, I fell under the spell of the Swedish-based quartet naming them as ‘ones to watch’ in GRTR!’s 2014 Reviewers Choices – ‘a cross between Peter Green-era Mac, Cream and Janis Joplin, and they’re only ‘kids’. The right ingredients, they just need to come up with a few new recipes’.
But Holy Moly! is the band’s first without talisman guitarist Dorian Sorriaux who left the band in 2018, and one which sees bassist Zack Anderson switch to guitar, with Kristoffer Schander coming in on bass.
Given Sorriaux’s charismatic playing it’s inevitable that Holy Moly! sees a shift in style, with many of the Peter Green / Cream guitar leanings replaced by a grittier more psychedelic blues rock vibe, and with Elin Larsson’s Joplin style vocals offering the continuity line.
It’s as if the band’s decamped from the London late 60′s blues / rock scene, driven up the M1 and set up shop in Sabbath’s Brum rehearsal rooms circa 1970.
Which carves Holy Moly! out as something of a slightly different beast to the band’s first two albums. Larsson is now the band’s only ‘ace in the pack, and while she rises to the challenge, it’s questionable whether without her Blues Pills would continue to turn so many heads.
On the first few spins I have to admit I wasn’t entirely convinced about the shift of direction, but given a chance, the album’s unquestionably a grower with some pile driving riffs, gritty, psychedelic guitar lines, and yes, Elin Larsson, in scorching form.
But then what else would you expect from a band on Nuclear Blast? Yes, there are a couple of more nuanced numbers like the Albatross / I’d Rather Go Blind influenced Wish I’d Known, and Norah Jones styled Longest Lasting Friend but even there Larsson can’t resist the temptation to descend into tonsil tearing territory.
Overall, Holy Moly! probably stands on a par with Lady In Gold, i.e. not quite as strong as their debut. Which considering the ‘in house’ replacement of Dorian Sorriaux is quite an achievement. And if they could just add a tad more commercialism to the mix, Blues Pills could yet be an irresistible force. ***1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
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