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EP Review: Face Of A Stranger – Face Of A Stranger

Through the decades the West Midlands has always been the real heartland of hard rock and heavy metal. I know that is a pretty bold claim but here is the proof, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest formed in Birmingham, Led Zepplin have their origins in Coventry, and Diamondhead are from Stourbridge. That right there is a roll call of rock and metal royalty and in a few short years we may just have another name to add to that very impressive list, because what I currently have in my hot little hand is the debut EP from Face Of A Stranger, and simply put, this record bangs.

This hard rock outfit from the Black Country comprised of singer Mitch Jones, guitarists Joe Lewis and Josh Pagett, bassist Ben Slater and drummer Luke Watton with the help of producer Jonny Hands have crafted a record which wouldn’t be out of place alongside the worlds established names in your local record store. I truly believe that this record is that good.

Track one is my favourite track on the EP and my favourite track of theirs full stop, I am of course talking about ‘The Road.’ There is a very good chance that if you have caught the band live then you will have heard this track before but here it’s not quite as you might remember it. There have been a few subtle little tweaks, with the result being a real rounded well put together song. The first part of the track is really stripped back, meaning that the emotive vocals are pushed to the forefront and left to set the tone of the song. Then on the two minute mark the song really comes to life, the volume increases, a powerful vocal emerges and it’s time for the guitars to take centre stage.

The solo here from Mr Lewis will be one of the best that you will hear all year. In its tone and style it is very much in the Slash mould from the Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion era. The track then switches right back down to its starting point, stripped back and almost haunting, a great way to finish.

Next up is lead single ‘Shutting Me Down.’ This track first hit the internet last week, (you can check my review here at http://thesportandmusicblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/face-of-stranger-debut-single-shutting.html)and has been on heavy rotation for a lot of people ever since. I originally said the intro sounded like ‘Come as you Are’ from Nirvana but having given it a few more listens I think it has in more common with ‘Heart Shaped Box,’ anyway, you get the picture. Personally I think that the best songs make you think and can mean different things to different people, and that is the case here. For me the track is about the end of a relationship and all of the emotions that come with it…looking back over what happened and what went wrong. However, the track could also be interpreted in some ways as a trip into the protagonists’ mind, where they are talking about the mistakes and suffering that they have gone through in their life and the mental scars that have been left behind.  Like I said, the song gives you something to think about.

The final track is the Velvet Revolver -esque ‘Dysphasia.’ Here we get a look at another string in the bands bow. This track is straight hard rock; in your face and uncompromising. Big guitars, big bass, and a powerful vocal while the drummer smashes the hell out of his kit, what more could you want? Again, I have only ever heard this song live so the layering of the vocals is a nice a little surprise addition. Though as I hinted above, it is not just about how good the song is but the fact that it gives the band a chance to showcase a slightly different style, gone is the melody driven nature of the other songs and in its place is a sound that hits you like a musical brick wall.

What the band has achieved here cannot be understated. The current line-up has only been in existence since April, and this after all is their first ever recording. The band just seems to fit together seamlessly. The bass, the drums and the rhythm guitar work in perfect harmony to provide the platform for the vocals and soaring guitar solos, and this really comes across in what is a very well-produced and well put together record.  A record, that in my opinion every rock fan should have in their collection.

Favourite song: ‘The Road.’

Favourite lyric: ‘Why do I build these cathedrals when I worship no one?’ (The Road)

Rating: 5/5

*It has also been confirmed today that the band have two gigs coming up at the Flapper in Birmingham on the 5th and 15thof December. On top of this they may also have a gig at Base Studios in Stourbridge this coming Saturday the 16th November, so keep an eye out for those if you want to hear more from them.*

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