Black Spiders – This Savage Land

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Review by Will Harris

When Sheffield’s Black Spiders released their debut, Sons of the North, back in 2011, they sounded like a decent stoner rock outfit with well-intentioned classic rock influences, though perhaps not the band that were about to save rock ‘n’ roll forever. 60 seconds into sophomore outing This Savage Land, it’s unarguably the same group behind the racket, yet now their attack is more focused and the sword is sharper — this is a trained, armed-and-ready rock force prepared to pick up the gauntlet and fight the good fight.

The years of touring with bands like Airbourne have clearly had a potent effect on the Spiders’ songwriting, as many a track on their latest effort is punctuated with clear, unfussy lyrics encased in air-punching, rallying choruses. The immediate driving fury of opener ‘Knock You Out’, for instance, doesn’t take too long before roundhousing the listener with the no-frills refrain of “It’s rock ‘n’ roll / It’s rock ‘n’ roll / We’re gonna knock you out!” Following, the straightforward but straight-at-you romp of ‘Stick It To The Man’ is similarly direct and deadly. Simplicity works for Black Spiders just fine, though: the opening two-chord-and-bend of ‘Creatures’ might be anything that someone could pick up a guitar and play, but is easily one of the most instantly infectious riffs of the year so far, and that’s the beauty of it.

Though other songs on the album make unmistakeable nods to earlier bands — the speeding thunder of Motörhead on ‘Teenage Knife Gang’; the blues-rock rhythm of ZZ Top on ‘Trouble’; and ‘Balls’ is mid-tempo AC/DC right down to the unapologetic egotism of its chorus (“You gotta have balls / to be a man like me”) — Black Spiders remain one of the few groups in their genre to incorporate the distinctive sounds of classic acts without bordering on tribute-band territory from track to track. There are less obvious reference points, too, with the unlikely ‘Put Love In Its Place’ coming across initially like one of Soundgarden’s morphine-dream psych-ballads, but having a chorus powered by the Spiders’ own hard-rock oomph. And that’s one of the main joys of This Savage Land, that when the influences do surface they’re all tightened and refined into the band’s own emergent sound.

Though the songcraft has been tweaked and developed since the first album, that’s not to say it’s perfect: ‘Raised By Wolves’, for example, has the panache to sound monstrous coming out full-whack from a car stereo (recommended), but lacks the hook to ever become an anthem (though frontman Pete Spilby is sounding better than ever before). Elsewhere, closer ‘Sleepy Demon’, a fat easy-rolling slab of stoner, will reassure fans of the first album that the group’s beginnings are far from abandoned. It’s at the album’s finale that Black Spiders also hint (but don’t promise) towards a possible new direction, where a melodic male choir fades out amidst folk guitars. Wherever they might be going next, This Savage Land should garner the Black Spiders a much bigger following by the time they start working on their next release. The saviours of rock ‘n’ roll? Not yet, but maybe.

Black Spiders - This Savage Land8.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Knock You Out
  2. Stick It To The Man
  3. Balls
  4. Young Tongues
  5. Put Love In Its Place
  6. Raised By Wolves
  7. Trouble
  8. Teenage Knife Gang
  9. Creatures
  10. Sleepy Demon