The Amazons – The Amazons (Fiction Records)
Rock just hasn’t been the same since the mainstream gobbled it up at the turn of the century. Sure, there’s been a handful of bands that embody the true spirit of the genre since then but, generally speaking, the sound has been cheapened a bit. Fortunately, recent years have seen this change with some bands turning up the intensity. Louder Than War’s Thomas Roden reviews the debut album by one such band — The Amazons.
If you cast your mind back to the turn of the century, the state of mainstream rock was pretty devoid of the intensity that first made rock such a controversial genre half a century previously. It’s good, then, that some bands have recognised this lack of bite and have decided to deliver it themselves. It’s been bubbling under the surface for the past few years, but it’s recently began to erupt and, now, we’ve got The Amazons.
The Amazons have had a bit of a rough ride to this album. The band has been performing extensively in recent years, but there is often a perception of the band as being a clone of Catfish and The Bottlemen — or a similar enough band that is perfect for any budget-tight festival organisers. So it’s understandable, then, that the band has pulled no punches on the debut. Over the course of fourty minutes, the band showcases it’s burning passion and intensity with ten hard-hitting rock numbers. It then brings things to a gentle close, but we’ll get onto that in a moment.
As soon as the band launches into opener Stay With Me, it’s clear that they are on a mission. The track is punctuated with blistering guitar tones, a relentless drum section fuelled by primal intensity and a vocal that mediates the band’s conflict between pure rock intensity and radio-ready sensibility. This duality works well for the band, producing a sound that feels like it isn’t trying too hard to be liked and gives off a nice vibe of angsty adrenaline.
The problem lies in that, for the first four or five songs, very little changes. Between Burn My Eyes and Junk Food Forever, there is very little deviation from these core sounds and contrasts. There are, of course, rhythmic distinctions and changes in trajectory, but in general the songs offer very little unique value. They’re by no means unenjoyable, but it’s a very mindless type of enjoyment that retrospectively blurs into one piece of music. The Amazons break this up with poppier numbers like Black Magic and Ultraviolet, both of which offer genuinely exciting and distinct moments of singalong anthemia and memorable riffs, but these are few and far between.
It’s strange, but it feels like the band wrote a selection of the songs to appear on the album — Stay With Me, Black Magic, Ultraviolet, Little Something and Holy Roller — first and then frantically penned material to connect it all. And this is okay, because those songs showcase the power and talent of the band perfectly. The trouble is that this leaves us with a lot of filler tracks that don’t leave much of an impact.
Inexplicably, the band decided to use the closing moments to take a tremendous gamble in the form of Palace, a four-minute gentle ballad devoid of any of the passion or power the band exhibited up to that point. Of course, this track shows that the band can write tracks that are distinctly different from the sound that has established them, but it’s slightly too far removed from the rest to fit. Perhaps it would have worked as an earlier track to break up proceedings with a lighters-in-the-air moment, but as the closing track it leaves us with an unpleasant taste in our mouths.
In the outfit’s mission to distinguish itself from competition, The Amazons appear to have forgotten where the heart of their music truly lies. There is enough muscular instrumentation and pop-flirting rock guitars to make this a very palatable listen and an enjoyable experience, but its merits merge and blur too often to make it a remarkable release. What it does leave us with, however, is faith that the band have the right stuff to pick themselves up and release something truly flawless in the future.
All words are courtesy of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, while the sentences and semantics are courtesy of Thomas Roden. More of the latter’s thoughts can be found on his Louder Than War author page.