Album review: SEVEN SHOTS FROM SOBER – Songs From Stephen Ave

SEVEN SHOTS FROM SOBER – Songs From Stephen Ave

Self release [Release date 29.09.15]

Named after a pedestrian mall in their native Calgary, ‘Songs From Stephen Ave’, is a smoking album from a Canadian powerhouse trio.

With a name like Seven Songs From Sober, you’d expect nothing less than a full-on, hard rocking album with Southern rock edges. The band explores both elements via fiery playing, hard hitting riffs and Brian Gibbs’s raw vocals.

Perhaps it’s their geographic isolation that explains how Seven Shots From Sober are able to rack up the kind of intensity levels that makes ‘Songs From Stephen Ave’ rock just that bit harder.

The band powers its way through hard rock, southern rock, shades of metal and heavy-duty boogie, before finally hitting a peak on the melodic, jangling guitars of ‘What Have You Done’. It’s on this song that they ultimately stamp their own signature on some bone shaking rock.

Brian Gibbs’s rasping lead vocal and buzz guitar levers us into the full-on, stop-time ‘Doing Alright’, complete with cymbal crashes, a chanted hook and a fierce shred, as the band reveals itself to be a raw, gut bucket power trio that means business.

They set themselves high standards, with high-octane energy levels over 10 tracks which consistently hold our interest throughout. A raucous bonus version of ‘Superstition’ and a jungle noise outro rounds off a satisfying retro rock album that does what it says on the tin.

‘Songs From Stephen Ave’ has enough intensity and overwhelming energy to tap into the late Lemmy’s heritage, as the band burns with real intensity.

Vocalist and guitarist Brian Gibbs is unrelenting, as he stretches his whiskey soaked drawl over his own blistering slide figure and a contrasting wah-wah break on the ripping ‘Rattlesnake’.

The Canadian trio has a big sound that belies their power trio line-up of Gibbs, bassist Ben Comeau and drummer Mark Rossie. Chris Ferguson’s mix emphasizes both the instrumental separation as well as their cohesive wall of sound, but it’s their own fiery approach that gives the album its venom.

If there’s a problem, it’s simply that in spite of the passion, the killer riffs and cute dynamics, they are revisiting a well worn path. Then again, given the current stasis of the rock industry at present, they might well be on to a good thing, in a post Dan Baird kind of way.

They implausibly take things up to another level on the bulldozer boogie of ‘Dry Eyes And A Bottle Of Rye’, which taps into their redneck sensibilities and leaves us in no doubt as to their ability to rock hard.

On ‘Going For Broke’ they veer more towards metal with a hook that sounds like Judas Priest while ‘Keep The Rounds Coming’ has a Motorhead wall of sound with another snarled vocal. And just when you think they can’t push things any further, they surprise us with the acoustic intro of ‘I Will Survive’ which quickly gives way to a power-riff driven explosion.

The band makes good use of quiet-to-loud dynamics with distorted guitar tones and hooks that act like a restated mantra.

In a rare example of restraint they explore a reggae backbeat on ‘The Long Road’, before a power chord resolution and some great phrasing from Gibbs who belts out a defining statement: ‘Through it all, you know that I took the long road’. Only a perfunctory tarnishes a great song.

‘Songs From Stephen Ave’ has enough substance, drive and an avalanche of riffs to satisfy even the most reticent rock palette. Check it out.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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 19:00

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