Uncompromising hard rock comes in many forms and in this modern age, most bands are drawing from the same well of influences. Old James are ignoring that to create something different. Whilst the influences of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple may be obvious and ones bands are still using them today, they combine it with Queens of the Stone Age and Cream.
You could expect something psychedelic to come from that combination but instead, they travel into the real of blues-driven hard rock. Uncompromising and with solid grooves, Speak Volumes is inspired by the old school and brought kicking and screaming into the modern era to create something original.
Much like Motörhead, they toe that line of being too rock for metal and too metal for rock. Imagine if Crobot dialled back on the trippy vibe and replaced it with melody and a hint of sultry blues. They’re about as close as you’re going to get. Like many great bands such as those previously mentioned, you can hear the influences but simply put: Old James are Old James.
Straight-forward hard rock like this is notably missing in today’s world. Ten tracks making a thirty-five minute album shows the trio don’t waste their time in making their point. Although it seems they don’t go in for ballads as such, they do bring it down with the funky “Kill Off the Rose” and “Lemons”. For the most part, it’s high-octane, balls to the wall rock and roll and they make no bones about making it obvious from the first song with “Don’t Put it on Me”.
Featuring chunky, bluesy riffs from Andy Thomson, you can hear the influences baked into his playing but with a deliberate focus to present them in a new fashion. Most obviously, this comes on tracks like “Words as Weapons” and “Salutations” and it’s largely here where the originality comes from. Meanwhile, as the opening of “So Real” kicks in, you expect Phil Lynott’s voice to play over the music before it veers off into its own territory. Not the heaviest track on the album and opting for a melodic slant, there’s a feeling that this is the band flexing the muscles and showing what they’re capable of as a unit whilst maintaining their core sound.
Meanwhile vocalist and bassist Brian Stephenson lends his cords to put in a varied performance across the album as he rasps, drawls and snarls his way through the album. Largely unique for the most part, it’s hard to draw any comparisons except during his howls and shrieks which remind me of Josh Homme at his flamboyant best.
The senior Stephenson brother locks in well with his younger sibling, Chris, on drums. Sitting front and centre on the album, he’s created some brilliant grooves to nod along with such as on the venomous “Eugene” and the minimalist “Bass-ik Instincts”.
Old James seem intent on breathing fresh life into the hard rock sound and they manage to do so by combining familiar influences to create something new and exciting. Funky and heavy, the songs are catchy and there’s not a weak one amongst them. Speak Volumes does exactly that with the level of talent on display. The difficult second album looms with a standard this high.
Speak Volumes is released on 25th August