March 18th marks the return of San Fransiscan trio Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with their 7th studio album, Specter At The Feast.
Recorded at Dave Grohl‘s Studio 606, the album is laced with haunting vibes of desolation and personal loss that hark back to the passing of frontman Robert Levon Been’s father (and ex-The Call singer) Michael Been in early 2010.
To help promote the album, the band, known for their burly psychedelic rhythms and trudging blues-rock anthems, released six wonderfully crafted short on-line films intent on setting the pace and tone for the forthcoming album.
However, whilst the slick editing and stylish black and white cinematography of each film succeeds in generating intrigue, the album itself falls short of reaching the expectations of both newly enticed listeners and die-hard fans.
The albums first song, Fire Walker, ineffectively sets the direction of the album with an eternal plinky-plonky intro that quickly drains the listener of any further interest. The accompanying dreary bass line and vacant vocal melody do little to salvage this track ultimately making for a very disappointing opening.
Seemingly aware of this dismal start, the band are quick to try and redeem themselves with their cover of The Call’s Let The Day, teetering on that fine line of staying true to the original whilst establishing it as their own. The additional grunge guitar work and signature distorted vocal performance add plenty of body to an otherwise ageing soft rock song, though still fall short of kick-starting the album.
Contributing to this abysmal start are tracks Returning and Lullaby, which, despite clear potential, are unfortunately derailed into unimaginative flat rhythms and trudging vocal performances.
The album finally gets the jump-start it so desperately needed with BRMC returning to the hard rock/blues formula that originally brought them to the dance first with Hate The Taste, a sexy hard riding riff reminiscent of T. Rex’s Buick Mackane and Rival, another solid rock stomper that perhaps should have appeared earlier on the album.
Sell It is another well-crafted track showcasing the bands ability to channel classic 90’s grunge rock whilst Teenage Disease relishes in Levon Been’s ferocious vocal performance that is arguably the albums true highpoint.
Unfortunately this pleasant burst of inspiration is short lived with the New Orleans blues inspired Some Kind of Ghost and Funny Games indirectly demonstrating the bands inability to advance on potentially stand-out tunes and instead leaving them to sluggishly unravel at their own accord.
The only redeeming factor about these tracks is that they somewhat hide the utterly dreadful Sometimes the Light; a bizarre holy orchestral ballad that forces one only to imagine what monstrosity was looked over in its favour.
Unsurprisingly, Specter… closes in much the same vein as it opened, with the highly forgettable soft rock tune Lose Yourself leaving the listener with the sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness come the albums end.
As a whole, the album comes across as nothing more than a handful of songs left lying around the studio floor haphazardly lumped together for the sake of the band reminding fans they’re still alive. A disheartening effort to say the least.
With that said, the few stand-out tracks will undoubtedly be enough to please die-hard fans when played loud and live.