At the tail-end of last year, Last In Line gave us the A Day In The Life EP delivering a rather impressive rendition to The Beatles’ classic, and leaving this listener with a mild case of euphoria and hoping for some good times ahead. Now, with winter refusing to go away, they offer us Jericho, a full-length album that tumbles crashing heavily to the ground screaming out of impending doom, much gloom, not to mention quite a lot of general despair.
The environment, politics, social media and just possibly a veiled reference to a failed relationship snuck in two of the songs on offer are the subject matters expressed in outrage, despair, anger and confusion from vocalist Andrew Freeman who gives it 100% throughout; raging away at the top of his range so often you genuinely think he’ll bust a blood vessel before he gets to the end of a song. Obviously, he doesn’t and fortunately there’s plenty of range, nuance and inflection resent in his voice too. It’s just that he’s not a happy chappy, though maybe recalling the actual lyrics to ‘A Day In The Life’ one should have been prepared.
Surprisingly, there’s only one track from that four-strong EP repeated on this album, and that’s ‘Hurricane Orlagh’, that I noted at the time, channelled Deep Purple and a little bit of Styx. I stand by that, and listening to Jericho complete power-driven delivery it slots in just fine. Musically, this is modern metal, not completely down-tuned but aggressive where it counts, while judiciously not forsaking melody, and at various points allowing Vivian Campbell to express himself in a variety of impressive guitar styles.
On opening track ‘Not Today Satan’ a steady but hard beat misleads the listener as a raging frenetic guitar suddenly splurge out a repeated riff that gets punctuated by a couple of power chords. Over this a lot of vitriol is espoused, culminating in screaming from both vocals guitar. Timelining the band’s Dio family tree lineage they part-source Purple Mark II and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath but crank it up. Trying to read between the lines, this one seems to be about those who go one about fake news in an excuse to cover up their own messes.
The deep pummelling rhythm section of Phil Soussan and Vinnie Appice path the way, as Campbell’s guitar needles in on ‘Ghost Town’, ticking away then leaving space before a lefthanded flurry of notes bleed out. Speedy shredding is offered later, but, overall, one takes in the powerful drama and with lines like: “ A sign of disdain won’t ease all the pain of injustice”, the general philosophy of the album as a whole. What also becomes apparent is how much Appice will set the pace throughout this record, pushing, accenting and just up their booming, crashing and making all the right noises.
Thematically, ‘Bastard Son’ son rolls in the same direction, albeit aurally going for that Asiatic ‘Kashmir’/’Stargazer’ overkill with both a thrashy attitude and also a rather pop rock melody involved too. A little ironically, while appreciating the doubled-up vocals one does query if the intention is to portray the singular illegitimate offspring as being bi-polar. Most like not, though whether they intended in literal form to the Jewish faith’s son of man, or China’s heavenly mandate once more given form (communism’s fine as ideology but for me reality always demonstrated those in power really want to play king). Nicely, once more Campbell goes for some guitar hero shredding of metallic fury, if only to prove he can. Heavy with a funky-edged riff is the shouty ‘Dark Days’, that gives way to sweeter harmonies in the chorus. While an enjoyable change of pace, it’s both more blues rock, if not obvious in its approach. ‘Do The Work’ works better in delivering the funk, alongside some chord changes, kind of House Of The Holy-era Zeppelin, and there’s also two quite delicious broken chorded semi-medieval feel pieces acting initially as intro then reappearing later on. Lyrically, one less wrapped in allegory and anger, about having to graft for good things to happen.
Chords fall and roll out like tumbleweed in a steel town abandoned and left to rust, on ‘Burning Bridges’, and despite listing how our ecology’s ruined by pollution, we can deepen this to the personal level, with but a brief line of dialogue. Musically the band similarly shift their rock trajectory; modern and heavy, at full force then going through a reflective emotional rollercoaster. Appice firing on all cylinders, his drums ricocheting with aplomb, and a great guitar sound, and fine solo, from Campbell – For ‘Walls Of Jericho’ his various guitars scream out, then subside for a twinkly guitar motif t dance through fast-paced, then stop for a breath of fresh air before deciding not to go any further, just pummel you with a barrage of noise. We’re likely back on the fake news trail here, and there’s also a whiff of vintage Iron Maiden somewhere in the riff.
Existentialist despair gets outlined in ‘Story Of My Life’ and ‘We Don’t Run’ a more down the line heavy rocker. Whereas squint sideways and ‘Something Wicked’ might be a little Def Leppard by way of their own UFO influences – Stacked harmonies, a writhing melody through undulating tempos, the lyrics offering references to serpents gets you in that demons and Dio mode, but the line “She is a terrible liar” gives it away as metaphor. Mean, gruff with shouty lyrics as guitars chug away, and ending on a drum roll.
Appice’s bass drums kick in hard, a charging guitar joining in hot pursuit as Last In Line take the fight deep into the heart of darkness of everything that’s been really pissing them off previously, on ‘House Party At The End Of The World’. With sound bites: “revelations”; “The beginning and the end”; and “My soul will soon transcend” the whole end of the world scenario we’ve been put through, may be only the world as we know it, and there may yet be hope. At wo and half minutes in, collectively they change track and Campbell squeezes a mesh of wailing notes out in solo, once back into the main song he continues to exude sustained notes of fury alongside Freeman’s wailing voice, while another recorded guitar is present shredding all the way to a feedback conclusion.
A big moody rowdy rock sound, with impressive twists and turns along the way. Individual songs mostly deliver well. As a collection, the lyrical themes might be a bit much for some, and musically you need a few playthroughs to appreciate the variety.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Jericho is released via earMusic and is available here.
- Official Website
- Not Today Satan
- Ghost Town
- Bastard Son
- Dark Days
- Burning Bridges
- Do The Work
- Hurricane Orlagh
- Walls Of Jericho
- Story Of My Life
- We Don’t Run
- Something Wicked
- House Party At The End Of The World