There’s been many people looking forward to a new Estrella album for some time now, myself included. It’s hard to believe three years have passed since their mighty debut, Come Out to Play. In the time between albums, they’ve toured constantly, gained an army of new fans and even made their Download debut.
For We Will Go On, the Aberdeenshire lads regrouped to none other than Rockfield Studios to work with Nick Brine. A great combination which has proven to bear fruit in the past. With Brine at the helm, We Will Go On feels fuller, warmer. Not that the debut had terrible production values – far from it but it’s certainly been brought up a notch this time around.
From hitting the play button, there’s a sense of growth and refinement to their melodic hard rock sound running through the entire album. It’s more polished and mature yet unmistakably Estrella.
Opening gambit “Here I Am” has been around for a while and it’s still great to hear it. A song about being true to yourself and ignoring what others think of you. It could also teach you to be mindful of others. It’s so upbeat and a feel-good song designed to lift your spirits. Any time I hear it, I can’t help but grin. Even if it inspires or empowers just one person, it’ll have been a success.
There’s some comparisons floating around between Estrella and Van Halen. Personally, that’s an insult to Estrella and while there are similarities to rock music of that era, I’d say it’s more like Def Leppard, especially Paul Gunn’s vocals drawling just like Joe Elliot on “Wheels Keep Turning”. It wouldn’t sound out of place on an 80’s based radio station. There is slightly less of the AOR vibe on this one, opting for a leaner, harder edge whilst retaining their identity.
There’s some great numbers on this album. Like the previous album, it’s full to the brim with catchy hooks, infectious melodies and choruses that would force someone without a tongue to sing along with. “Hard to Get” sounds akin to Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” with its throbbing bass and rhythm. Meanwhile “Rock City” is your typical balls-out, pedal to the metal rock tune, complete with a brilliant breakdown and a captivating guitar solo from Luke Gunn. The crunching and grinding riff in “Undercover Lover” sounds like Slash’s work during Snakepit’s Ain’t Life Grand. Close your eyes and you’d be forgiven for mistaking the pair of them. It underpins how impressive a guitarist Luke Gunn is and how great the music of Estrella is that there’s no need for a second guitarist.
As always, Nathan Gunn’s bass rumbles alongside his band mates, sounding as brilliant as ever. However, it’s when you see him play live (without a pick, I may add) that you truly get a sense of his prowess. Combine him with drummer Leo McPherson and you have a tour de force of a rhythm section. Gluing together without effort and driving forward the songs, McPherson especially showing restraint where needed with “Hold On” and the tender “My Own Way”.
We Will Go On is the perfect follow-up to a brilliant debut. Not only is there development but it completely eclipses Come Out to Play which is no mean feat. I’m looking forward to hearing more of these songs live, hopefully in the near future. And as we hit the halfway mark of the year and literally twenty brilliant albums I could name, this is up there with some of the best.