Virgil And The Accelerators – Army Of Three

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Fret-melting white-boy blues-rock

Review by Ian Savage

Release date: 6 October 2014

They’re Birmingham-based, they’re young, they’ve taken plaudits from all quarters of the blues-rock scene over the last few years: if there was ever an album that should bend the ears of the Midlands Rocks crew, it’s Virgil and the Accelerators‘ second LP Army Of Three. Having erstwhile Sabbath/Lizzy/Priest deskmeister Chris Tsangarides at the helm lends further intrigue; so, sophomore slump or comeback story?

Things kick off promisingly as the slow-burn intro to ‘Take Me Higher’ builds into a foot-tapping verse riff and catchy (if obvious) chorus, before ‘Blow To The Head’s sparse structure climaxes with a furious wah outro. This is most definitely fourth-generation white-boy blues-rock, with the emphasis taken from the blues and placed firmly on fret-melting rock guitars; there’s nothing even resembling a traditional twelve-bar to be found, and the influences are clearly more Kotzen / Lukather / Bonamassa than any of the three Kings or even the likes of Page or Kossof.

It’s a listenable enough offering, as a whole – more spacious lower-tempo tracks like ‘Anymore’ and ‘Through The Night’ temper the more straightforward rockers (‘It Burns’, ‘All Night Long’, the Jeff Healey-esque harmonica-infused ‘Give It Up’), and the production is excellent throughout. There’s definitely no new ground being taken by this particular army, though – the songs are largely platforms for the frontman’s guitar histrionics first and vehicles for emotion second. Given a few dozen spins, this reviewer would still struggle to hum a hookline from any song on Army Of Three, and lyrically there’s very little to grab hold of.

As a display of musicianship and an object lesson in modern blues-rock production, this LP is right up there with the best of 2014 so far; as a piece of art, it falls far short. Virgil and the Accelerators will deservedly pull crowds at music industry events, should they chose to push themselves in that direction; whether they’ll pull in a more ‘layman’ audience remains to be seen.

Virgil And The Accelerators – Army Of Three6.5 out of 10

Track listing: 

  1. Take Me Higher
  2. Blow To The Head
  3. All Night Long
  4. Love Aggression
  5. Give It Up
  6. Through The Night
  7. It Burns
  8. Stand Up
  9. Anymore
  10. Free

 

 

18 COMMENTS

    • That’s actually pretty much exactly how I feel about the album, worded differently. Sometimes a band being touted as ‘the next big thing’ raises expectations beyond the possibility of fulfilment and actually has an adverse effect.

      But what do I know, I play in a pub band :D

  1. Well, I’m certainly flattered that my writing can still incite a bit of controversy after all these years!

    Perhaps the band are better live than on record as so many are, unfortunately I’m yet to see them; clearly my fellow MR scribe was impressed. There’s been more than one occasion where I personally haven’t been ‘grabbed’ by a band on record only to be blown away by them live, and indeed vice versa – the previous Skid Row EP/tour and fellow local boys Stubblemelt spring to mind.

    Of course, I stick by my review; far from ‘listened once and watched the video a couple of times’ I had the album on almost permanent rotation for two or three weeks, looking to be more positive and helpful towards a West Midlands group. I truly, honestly can’t see me listening to it again by choice though; as I said, it doesn’t push any buttons emotionally for me at all and I’m personally not overly turned on by the songs (despite the excellent production).

    What really did make me chuckle though was that the band’s management have clearly gone out of their way to find material to attempt a character assassination on me – some sketchy footage of a band I perform in for a bit of fun at the weekend does not, unfortunately for them, a smoking gun of writing bias make.

    Martin Lewis has shown a far larger deficit in his professionalism than he ever could in mine through this petty little episode, and screaming and pointing fingers at anyone who thinks the band you manage AREN’T the best thing they’ve heard this year would be beneath anyone with serious faith in their proteges’ ability.

    I wish VATA all the best and hope to see them live and maybe have a beer sometime – maybe on a night that Martin’s not in.

  2. I don’t understand; why all the debate?
    He hasn’t said it’s a bad album; he gave it 6.5.
    Classic Rock gave it 7, only half a point more.
    I think it’s a fair review and to expect that every reviewer will like an album is an utterly ridiculous notion.

  3. Always makes me laugh when a review gets slated for not giving the praise that others do.
    If a record gets universal acclaim then there’s got to be something wrong with it.

      • Hey Martin – unfair mate. If you look up my musical history it would be far more damning but that doesn’t stop me having a view on your music. As Editor, I find Ian’s written work spot on. I don’t agree with him here but that’s the beauty of a critique – ear of the beholder.

      • Oh that’s hilarious! “His band are crap so he must be jealous, hence the naff review…”

      • Are you suggesting that he’s jealous and so wrote a bad review?
        That’s a cheap shot, and a pretty pathetic one at that.

      • You’re the manager of this band, aren’t you Martin?
        Do you really think that this is an appropriate way to respond to criticism?
        How many bands will see this and reconsider giving your band gigs if they think you will take the same approach to their music?

  4. Well some of this review is fairly well drawn, which hints at some knowledge of the genre’s and the history of them. I cannot for the life of me understand the two comments ‘new ground’ and lack of ‘hooks’ (hookline???)… In terms of ‘New Ground’ we do have that,,, we have a straight ahead rock album (it claims to be nothing else), that has the organic and emotional feels of a blues album, hard rock albums generally tend to be quite regimented and not organic,,, this really is,, that is its USP Lyrically the album is very well considered, perhaps they do have room to grow in some area’s but the great majority of the lyrics are perfect at hinting at a wider narrative (your imagination is supposed to fill in the detail),,, but If you cant hum Love Aggression or Through the Night? I mean wow are you tone deaf???? Essentially your critique is without credibility as your negative propositions are clearly baseless,, I am guessing you simply listened once and watched the video a couple of times?

    • “Your negative propositions are clearly baseless” – why? because you disagree?
      Read the last paragraph – or even the whole thing – again.

  5. Hilarious -the guy obviously doesn’t like the band. The consistency of more established and respected reviewers:

    Power Play Mag 8/10
    Classic Rock Mag 7/10
    Music News 4/5
    Power Play Mag 8/10
    This Is Not A Scene 8.5/10
    Power Play Mag 8/10
    Album Reviews
    Planet Mosh 4/5
    Classic Rock Blues 8/10
    Get ready To Rock 4/5

    • By “The consistency of more established and respected reviewers”, I take it you mean ones that you agree with.
      As you said, Ian “obviously doesn’t like the band”. It is possible that someone might – just *might* – not like the band.

      • Not at all, we have had and accept criticism. This review just sticks like a saw thumb. When you look at the ability of the reviewers live work it makes sense. Not even worthy of a support slot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOPtMuBk3fE&sns=em

        I mean here is a review from last nights gig by another Midlands Rocks Reviewer. Same tunes.

        VATA are a bit of an enigma. To me there are a hard rock act with a foundation forged in the blues yet they have spent a fledgling career to date successfully working the traditional blues circuit. With their new album (Army of Three – contentiously reviewed by Ian Savage here) they have clear potential as a cross-over act in line with Temperance Movement, Rival Sons but with the added advantage of the amazing technical ability of one Virgil Mahon on lead guitar, that places them within the guitar-god category of Bonamassa, Van Halen, Lukather, Kotzen, Meneketti, Montrose et al.

        It had been a couple of years since I had last seen them perform so, having enjoyed their new album I made my way to Worcester for the opening date of a lengthy album tour (part 1).

        I was impressed by the Marrs Bar. It’s a nice venue, decent beers and security staff that smiled and welcomed (always nice to see). It looks like it can hold about 150/200, has a solid sound system and attracts a good range of original acts whilst underpinned by a cluster of tributes. It would be good to see bands making their way here that are at the same level as an Academy 3, Rock City Basement or Slade Rooms.

        The Bromsgrove/Redditch based Army Of Three were revealed from behind the stage screen dead on 9pm and proceeded to deliver a 2hour set (yep, when was the last time you saw a 2 hour set?) jam/rammed/shoe-horn-packed with superb playing and guitar virtuosity of the very highest order.

        Playing to a crowd that wore a sizeable number of VA tees, you could tell that these three are the tightest of cohorts, seasoned road warriors; with a musical connection that barely required a glance to bring them out of one of their extended jams, such was their synchronicity.

        Hard rocking openers of Take Me Higher and the sassy, Blow To The Head informed us that they had waited long enough to play these songs, having had their album delayed due to the life-threatening illness of producer Chris Tsangarides.

        The debut album isn’t neglected but now with a wider repertoire they can cherry-pick from Radium and introduce them like the life-long buddies they are. Backstabber, gives way to the stiletto heeled Give It Up, before the first big freeform breakout of the night arrives during 88.

        And here I think, VATA need to decide on their path. There’s absolutely no doubting that Virgil is a six-string darling, he is blessed with the ability of a handful that walk the UK, if not the World. So they have the power to decide whether they want to straddle that cross-over, more lucrative world of hard rock or remain (and its perfectly fine to do so) within the more introspective blues sector of Sayce, JST, Lister, McGregor and Poole. All fine, fine and worth-while troubadours but not ones that will become household names or pack 3,000+ punters.

        And the key part to that conundrum? Histrionics, balls out flamboyance, sass and sex. Virgil showed glimpses during the 120 minutes on stage, especially when ripping up Hendrix’s Are You Experienced as an encore but in order to break out of the slightly drier Blues scene and get people raving, he needs to lead from the front. The demi-gods like Blackmore, Hendrix, Page, Rhoads, had their introspective moments, lost in their own world on stage. But it was usually while dry humping their strat against the cab, or wringing every last drop of sustain on that top note.

        It’s there in spades for VATA; just witnessing set closer Free was proof enough and had me grinning from ear to ear like a demented Cheshire.
        What a glorious position to be in but from my classic rock corner I hope that they do unleash that beast; it w

  6. This deserves so much more than 6.5/10. As a slab of guitar-based rock n roll, they is some phenomenal playing on here, across all 3 of them. There are plenty of highs along with breadth and diversity.

    Its only rock n roll, but I like it.

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