By now everyone reading this is familiar with the ‘difficult 2nd album’ cliché. However as much as well all know that that’s pretty much crap there is a genuine point here, when you come out with a record straight off the bat which is popular with critics and fans what the hell do you do next?
Of course you can try and replicate that popular sound at which point you’ll be accused of just making the same record again, or you can try and evolve a bit where you will be accused of either selling out or canned for moving away from what was a winning formula. So, basically as an artist you can’t win, but all this does make things very interesting for music geeks like me. Which way will the band go?
Quite a while ago now I had the chance to review the debut EP from The Crimson Star, and all things considered it was a really good record. A little rough in places (Mainly due to the production) but a very good debut all the same. So the question was, would they continue with the same no nonsense style or try and switch things up a little? Well I hope you’re sitting comfortably because I’m about to tell you.
The first move which the band made in regard to the new record has turned out to be an extremely good one. They crowd sourced the EP cover, something which I haven’t seen done before but I think it’s a great idea. It’s something that’s a bit different and got fans involved. I mean it’s got to be pretty cool to say that you have a picture on the front of your favourite band’s new EP.
As for the music, there has been evolution rather than revolution. This is still the hard hitting, no nonsense Crimson Star who made such an impact last year just with a little twist.
This evolution is evident straight from the off as title track ‘No Ordinary Love’ growls into life. Thankfully my main issue with their debut has been fixed, they have switched producer and the vocal is now a hell of a lot clearer. It’s no longer buried low in the mix; instead, Shaw is given the opportunity to showcase his voice and take tracks by the scruff of the neck. All in all there is less blood and thunder and a lot more melody, but the change doesn’t feel forced, it just feels like natural growth of the band. A brilliantly stylish guitar solo late on is definitely one of the highlights and a sign that they haven’t quite gone all warm and cuddly just yet.
‘Coercion’ opens with a short acoustic guitar melody which is most definitely something new for old fans. The main riff soon crashes in however and the track really gets going. The little guitar and drum breakdown which leads into a bridge before the chorus is brilliant. It’s something which Sabbath did a lot and something which frankly more bands should attempt, it just gives a lot more polish to proceedings. I have to say that not only is this track my favourite of the new batch it is also probably my favourite of theirs full stop.
Final track ‘A Darker Shade’ is probably most like the band which I first encountered at the back end of last year. There are a lot less frills and this almost punk rock in your face effort clatters along at a cracking pace. There’s a great section at about half way where pretty much everything drops out allowing the guitar to rumble along alone before it’s joined by a pounding drum beat which then fires neatly into another roaring guitar solo. This track is a grandstand finish if ever there was one.
No Ordinary Love is a very accomplished record all round. Everything seems a lot tighter this time and the production is markedly better; Chris Piper deserves a good chunk of credit here. The uncompromising grunge sound of New Road has grown up and become a little more civilised, hard rock is now the order of the day and that really isn’t a bad thing. Having seen at close quarters (There is a behind the scenes feature currently in the works) the attention to detail which the band apply to their music this new polished sound is no surprise.
The Crimson Star might now be slightly more refined and slightly more melodic, but they have once again produced another damn fine rock record.
No Ordinary Love is out now, and the band play a launch gig for the EP tonight (20th August) at the Roadhouse in Birmingham.