No longer driving the blues-rock cart…
Allan Jones was filled with light on 28 October 2016
It’s been a decade since The Answer burst onto the scene, believe it or not. The Irish blues-rock band were, back then, rightfully heralded as one of the best up-and-coming rock bands out there, and the raucous fun of their debut album ‘Rise’ gave them an excellent platform to build on. Now on their sixth album, ‘Solus’ is a radical change of pace and style. According to their press release, they’ve had a hard time of things lately, not the least of which involved the premature birth of lead singer Cormac Neeson’s son.
This has been reflected musically in a far more sombre affair this time around. Borrowing heavily from the traditional instrumentation of their homeland, the band have served up a more prog-rock style album, featuring Latin and Gaelic chanting, several choral arrangements, and some very traditional Irish harmony work – topped off with the druidic symbol for illumination and inspiration on the cover. This time around, the guitars and basslines are more sparse, and the vocals more controlled and driven, and the drumming supports this new flow with nonchalant ease.
This is a softer version of the band, no longer driving the blues-rock cart headlong over the edge of a cliff with abandon. There are hints of their old selves buried here and there – ‘Battle Cry’, for example, brings back some of the old bounce and lightness, but blends in the harmonised gaelic chorus line to keep it in line with the new direction they’re taking. Of course, it doesn’t sustain this lightness, feeling more like a brief respite from the sadness they have over them. Probably my favourite track is ‘Demon Driven Man’ which is more of a trad-blues style number, with the very sparse arrangement working in its favour.
The rest, though… to be honest, it’s not what I want from The Answer. Yeah, I get that they’ve had some rough times, and they want to work them out musically, but I’ve never been one for wallowing in them, and for me this album wallows a lot. That said, it does wallow very prettily, and there’s a constant theme of searching for light and hope, and for some people this will work just fine. It’s certainly a softer, prettier thing than their earlier works, and makes for a radical departure – and therein lies the problem: many of their fans won’t be impressed with the new direction, no matter how well it’s been put together, or how well it’s been performed. I doubt The Answer will care, though – this is definitely a self-indulgent album, and a gentle two-fingered-salute to the bad things trying to drag them down. Whether this becomes a new direction for them remains to be seen, but they’ve certainly got the talent to pull it off.
6 out of 10
- Beautiful World
- Battle Cry
- Untrue Colour
- In This Land
- Thief Of Light
- Being Begotten
- Left Me Standing
- Demon Driven Man
- Real Life Dreamers
I’m with you on Solas Allan, it just doesn’t fit. I love the Answer, their classic rock best is as as good as anyone and they’ve got plenty of material that is right up there. But I can’t help thinking this LP is partly driven by personal strife but mostly by the those in the ‘mainstream’ rock media that have given them a terrible time for sticking to what they’re very good at. It’s why I don’t read the likes of Classic Rock mag any more. Saw them live on the Dead Daisies tour a few weeks back and it was sad to see such great musicians and lovely lads too trying to please no-nothing done-nothing critics that should be on their side but have taken against them.
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