Back in 2013, when Irish classic rockers The Answer were about to release their fourth album New Horizon, lead singer Cormac Neeson told Classic Rock Magazine that if that album didn’t broke the band big, or at least made the band climb a couple of notches on the ladder of success there was a pretty big risk that the band would call it a day. See, the band had made everything in their power to make the band a success – writing killer song, recorded awesome sounding albums and toured their asses off, opening for everyone from Whitesnake and Paul Rodgers to AC/DC, but they simply never got the big break that they deserved. I feared. And hoped that people would buy shitloads of copies of that album. Because I love this band. I discovered them with their debut album Rise (2006), a fantastic album and the following records Everyday Demons (2009) and Revival (2011) are damn masterpieces in my world. To me, The Answer is a band that both could and should have massive success and play arenas around the world. But they’re not. And, luckily enough, they did not split up after New Horizon didn’t make them superstars.
Instead they released another great album in 2015 called Raise A Little Hell, an album that didn’t put them in the first division, sales wise, either. But what they did on that album was to try out some new ways when it came to writing songs. The Answer were always a classic rock band with its feet in the 70’s and they wore their Led Zeppelin and Free influences on their sleeves. However, on that album they tried to use ideas from outside writers, something that, hand on heart, felt just a little desperate in their search for the big hit. But that didn’t matter because everything on that album sounded like The Answer anyway. Prior to the release of this album, they revealed that this album would be a bit different because this time they had, well, tried some new ways that might raise an eyebrow or two. I wasn’t too worried that they had changed too much because they didn’t the last time they went on that route.
But boy, was I wrong – The Answer have changed. And then some! Something that is proved right away with the opening title track (“Solas” is a Celtic word for light, btw). It’s a rocker for sure, but it is a slow one, with a hypnotizing groove and a floating feel, heavy but on the trippy side. It’s a song that differs a lot from what we’re used to, to the degree that it’s even hard to tell that it is the same band. If it wasn’t for Neeson’s voice, it actually could have been. Any good then? You bet your ass! It’s a fantastic song even! “Beautiful World” follows and here we get a more pumping, straight forward but somewhat monotone (meant in the best possible way here) rocker with a big sound scape and lots of keyboard orchestration and a prominent Celtic atmosphere. Again, it’s different to what I’m used to but it’s oh so good! “Battle Cry” have a base of acoustic guitars and a folky kind of feel but the major swing that is The Answer’s trade mark and the 70’s vibes brings back the old band’ sound a bit. The melody is great and it brings out an urge to sing along – a killer! “Untrue Colour” has a rhythm and riffing that seems to just go on and on and on with very little variation with a U2 influenced guitar on top mixed with some 80’s sounding keyboards. It also sports a somewhat modern feel and it is a good song only not as great as the previous ones. The band’s folky side returns on “In This Land”, a song that brings out the acoustic guitars again and since it goes in a slower pace, it lies on the border to a ballad. But a very memorable melody and a catchy chorus shines through, making the song a high light on this record.
“Thief Of Light” Is a slow, calm and tranquilizing number, big on acoustic guitars and synthesizer. There is a levitating atmosphere and something peaceful over it – it’s quite affable, this one. “Being Begotten” is a slower track – again – and has this sit-by-the-fire, cowboy-ish kind of vibe. It actually gives me a Bon Jovi (when they were good…) feel. It’s stripped and earthly with its all vocals, guitar, bass drum + hi-hat and it sounds more American than Irish. It gets more electric along the way, though and it toughens up towards the end – a brilliant track. “Left Me Standing” is a more up-tempo rocker with some Thin Lizzy influenced twin guitar doodling and even though it clearly stands with both its feet right in the seventies, there is also a big chunk of pop all over it and it goes in a much lighter style than the rest of the album. But it is exactly what the album needs, the more uplifting vibes brings great contrast to the more moody and gloomy waves that this album comes with – a brilliant track. The classic The Answer sound returns on “Demon Driven Man”, but there’s more to come on that one. Yes, it is a big, bad and groovy rhythm & blues based rocker, but there’s also a southern rock vibe on it where they bring in some country complete with a cocky mandolin in the background – very cool and a damn awesome track. “Real Life Dreamers” lies more on the bluesy, ballad side, but it still has a groove and a melody that feels like it will be preserved in my memory forever. Neeson duets with one Fiona O’Kane – a woman with an amazing voice that is almost cathartic which makes the song grow even bigger. They bid their farewells for this time with “Tunnel”, a slow, laid-back and stripped acoustic ballad that is really hypnotic much to the smooth and catchy keyboards – a really good song.
A different album? Hell yeah! In many ways, this album is not recognizable as The Answer, but in other ways it is. The Answer sound is there in the bottom but the style has changed and almost every song is arranged in a way The Answer has never done before. First of all, it is more laid-back – and in some parts more modern – than on any of their previous albums and the raunchy and kick-ass classic rock are more or less gone. Still, I can’t describe this album in any other way than `classic rock´. I completely understand that the band – after five albums – wants and needs to do something a little more drastic, to develop in a new direction, to shake things up a bit. They don’t want to stagnate and they need to move forward and I guess they feel the need to prove themselves. But will this new style improve the sales and make them a bigger band? Well, I don’t think so because this style is way less commercial and easy-listening than their previous records were. Is it any good, then? Yes it is! It’s a great record, brilliant even, but you need to work with it and have patience. Still, I don’t hold this album as high as many of their previous albums because – maybe I’m narrow-minded here – I want The Answer to sound like The Answer. But I would recommend this to any rock fan because at the end of the day, great songs are great songs and this album contains shitloads of those.
Other The Answer reviews:
2. Beautiful World
3. Battle Cry
4. Untrue Colour
5. In This Land
6. Thief Of Light
7. Being Begotten
8. Left Me Standing
9. Demon Driven Man
10. Real Life Dreamers