Every now and then, an album’s lead single drops to tease the forthcoming said album and you think you get an idea of what the full record will entail. Lead single in question “Black Diamonds” on Matt Mitchell & the Coldhearts’ self-titled album will make you think Mitchell is picking up where previous band, Colour of Noise left off.
However, one listen of the full album will tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Admittedly, Mitchell’s long-awaited debut solo effort is still in the classic rock vein but it’s so much different from his previous bands. With the aforementioned “Black Diamonds” opening the album, it acts as a great way to pass the baton from his previous band to this one. It’s a genius move. Allowing Mitchell to show off his full vocal range, he mixes it up with drawls and screams and everything in-between. With its crunching riff, it’s a typical driving force of a rock song and whilst not alone in the album, other tracks are more representative of what this album is about.
This mainly comes in the form of “Home” and “Dare You to Watch”. Tamer and far more melodic, they still fit in the vein of classic rock but it’s these two tracks which are the best representatives of the album as a whole. The guitars are far more stripped back on the former as Mitchell’s vocals sit front and centre over them during the verses but once they take flight during the chorus, they claw their way forward, finding equal footing and sink their hooks into you. Meanwhile, the latter, despite its poppier tones and acoustic licks, has a dark edge to it with its lyrical theme of mental health and OCD. Relying more on acoustic guitar, it brings an uplifting element to the track. There’s a lot going on in this one and various different runs start and stop, conveying the confusion and how those affected can quickly change through no control of their own.
Throughout the album, there’s plenty of Hammond organ and piano (and since the album was recorded in Rockfield, yes, it’s the same one used for “Bohemian Rhapsody”) showing rock doesn’t need to always be about the guitar. In fact, some of the songs are served incredibly well by relying more on the keyed instruments and blended with the acoustic and electric guitars, create some stunning melodies. Lyrically, Mitchell has opted to draw from his own experiences and telling stories rather than add to the pile of clichés. His voice is in fine form, instantly recognisable between the honeyed, soulful moments and intense screams. Here, he gives his most versatile performances of his career and it’s as robust as Paul Rodgers or Danny Bowes, containing the same power.
Elsewhere, “On & On” and “Unavailable” take a grungier tone with the latter also possessing hints of blues as Mitchell snarls his lyrics. “Kings & Queens”, “Do You Wanna Be My God” and “Wave Goodbye” are some of the more upbeat rockers on the album and perfect for a live setting. However, it’s the last few songs which close out the album which are perhaps the most engaging songs of the album. It brings what came previously to a gentle stop. They’re songs you’ll tap your feet to the rhythmic drumming and there’s still plenty of guitar work to keep things interesting. Whilst three slower songs back to back may put some people off and think it’s ending the album on a whimper rather than a bang, it’s anything but. It’s a trilogy of tracks which are perfect together and if you were to split them up and re-order the album, they’d actually pack less of a punch.
Matt Mitchell & the Coldhearts challenge what classic rock can sound like. It’s great to hear his voice on new material and before the first track is finished, it’s obvious he’s been missed. Having been in several bands over the years, this is some of Mitchell’s best work to date and it would have been wrong to put these songs out via one of those bands. This needed to be his album, surrounded by some excellent musicians.
Header image by Marcel Grabowski
Matt Mitchell & the Coldhearts is released on 19th April