Album review: SAMARKIND


[Release date 24.11.17]

Right, “Economics 101” – your company operates in a commodity market selling apples. The price of entry into the business is low, all the apples look, taste and are priced the same and they’re all available right now…so, who do you buy from? The guy you like, the guy who tells you a joke or offers you a coffee while he serves you – something that differentiates him from all the other apple sellers.

And that’s the thing with Samarkind’s debut, self-titled album – it’s all here and it’s all very decent and well executed so what’s the unique selling point? What’s the pull? What makes another blues/rock album rise above the median line in a crowded market place?

It always has to be first and foremost the songs – that unforgettable riff or chorus, that unique meshing of divergent styles – combined with the rabid energy, experience and infectious charisma of the live performance.

Samarkind guested for Inglorious in early October in Dublin and ripped it up royally apparently, even causing people to “put away their cell phones and pay attention”. Personally, I think that is quite an achievement these days and still the best way to build the band’s brand in a busy space.

There is some live prior form here – during his time fronting ‘80s Irish hard rockers Assassin (nope, me neither…), lead singer David Paul Byrne has toured in support of Leppard, Quo, W.A.S.P. and Manowar and was also a featured vocalist in the 1986, definitely B, slasher movie “Trick or Treat”. Clutching at straws a bit here but the point is – the guy’s got the pipes.

With a Pole on lead guitar, an Irish bassist and a South African-born drummer, this United Nations of rockers have done well to channel all the essential ingredients of multi-influenced, hard rock blues.

From the tribal chant and chunky beat of opener “Black Rain” which morphs into a very tasty Blackfoot-style, chugging southern-shuffle adorned with some sludgy slide guitar, through the straight-ahead bluesy riffage of “Sun Stroke Heart” and “Skinny Rivers” and the almost obligatory, jangly beaten-up acoustic romp of “Touchstone Man”, this is a worthy debut – tickling the crotch rather than grabbing you by the balls.

“Good Man Call” touches on the sad plight of children in war zones and the refugee crisis and, instead of a Klaus Meine whistle, there is a spoken-word coda/chorus to tug at the heart strings. Again, an almost there but not quite, “Wind of Change”.

Blood and guts finale, “Blue Mountain”, with its chopping, staccato riff has the band rocking to a pacey finish, all individually getting crazy while giving it the full belt load of bullets in a classy cut.

One feels like there are better songs to come in due course which will help to set these guys apart from their contemporaries. This first offering of only 8 tracks – midway between a long EP and a full album – augers well, good but not yet great so, definitely ones to watch. ***

Review by Mark “Mad Dog’ Shaw

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