Wales’ contribution to musical is a diverse one – legends such as Ivor Novello, Motörhead’s Phil Campbell (and his Bastard Sons), Tom Jones, Bullet For My Valentine’s early material and of course, H from Steps. More recently, we’ve had some great rock bands come out of the nation like Häxan, Those Damn Crows, Everyday Heroes and Scarlet Rebels – all flying the flag for Welsh rock music. Then, there’s hard rockers Florence Black. Having witnessed their aggressively average set supporting the greatest band of the 21st century, The Virginmarys, in Birmingham and being upstaged by local openers, Blue Nation, my expectations for this, their debut album, were suitably tempered.
I’m all for a band to prove me wrong and after listening to Weight of the World, I can comfortably say I’m still waiting. This is an album reflective of their live show – boring and unengaging, duct taped together with barely passable musical chops. It’s not egregiously bad – that’s an honour belonging to albums like Chinese Democracy, St Anger or Royal Blood’s latest album. But similarly, there’s nothing among the ten tracks to redeem it – even Romesh Dodangoda’s customary excellent production is below par on this album. Everything’s pushed up to the max and blended roughly together, hanging the notion of subtlety by its neck and its trousers around its ankles. Which is great if you’re a band who deals with making a lovable filthy racket like The Hyena Kill or God Damn. Here, it’s unwarranted and unwelcome.
Opening track “Zulu” tries to kick proceedings off with a bang but instead trips and stumbles out of the gate with a deep-fried slice of genericism so if you’re specifically looking to be entertained by something entitled “Zulu”, go watch the 1964 film with Michael Caine. The song itself does suitably set the tone for the rest of the album, offering up ten shots of dull mediocrity. As the band walk the fine line between classic rock and hard rock, what becomes apparent early in the album is there’s no attempt at a fresh take on the genre. Admittedly, not every band has to do that but because the music itself lacks passion and substance, what could have been an album built on a traditional sound and executed exceptionally, this is nothing more than a safe and uninspiring listen.
There’s a couple of hints at taking the album into metal territory with “On the Ropes” and “Can You Feel It?” and are the closest to a high point you’ll hear. However, any hopes are dashed by “Grove Street” which attempts to be a big 90s-era Aerosmith power ballad but Tristan Thomas’ sandpaper vocals steers it sharply into a ditch resembling Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” during the chorus. Elsewhere, to balance out the high points are the low points to average us to, well, average are “Inside Out” with its plodding, chunky riff, matched by “Black Cat” and “So Far Away”. Each of are clear throwbacks which cluttered mainstream rock radio of the late 00s and early 10s which most of us thankfully moved on from.
Whilst the post-grunge sounds could be homage to their own youth, between that and the other afore-mentioned tracks, it makes the album feel unfocused. If they really nailed down what they wanted their band to be, there’d be an enjoyable, accessible classic rock band or even something closer to a NWOBHM/thrash band and easy comparisons to compatriots Bullet For My Valentine would be made. Instead, what we’re given is a band with sub-par technique and an identity crisis making an instantly forgettable album.
Meanwhile, closing number “The Light” is a limp to the finish line and instantly kills the notion that they might at least be able to finish strong. It meanders throughout before its sudden, sharp stop and throws you into disbelief to make you think there should be another track. It makes for a jarring and sloppy end to what was already a slog of a listen – like that person who farts before leaving the room. Don’t be that person.
Lately, I’ve questioned what’s been added to the water supply in Wales to produce so many great bands but this album leaves me thinking the additive has run dry or Florence Black exclusively drink bottled water. Weight of the World is anything but weighty, produced by a trio trying too hard to force the “power trio” moniker and turns it into a contrived, soulless listen. They’re a band who would benefit from a second guitar to add light and shade to its most boring parts and most importantly: depth. It’s a dry and insipid listen from a dry and insipid band. If you’re a person who still buys physical albums and your local stockist doesn’t have it, head to B&Q’s paint aisle (other DIY shops are available) and you’ll likely find it with the beige paint.
Weight of the World is released on 17th September