BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION – BCCIV

I remember how excited I got when I first heard the news that Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple, Phenomena, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath) had formed a new supergroup with drummer Jason Bonham (Bonham), keyboard player Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) and guitarist Joe Bonamassa. I mean, with players like that, what could possibly go wrong? Well, they didn’t – at least not at first. But that said, the band’s self titled debut album from 2010 was something of a disappointment for yours truly. Not that I think it’s a bad album – it’s pretty damn far from bad. It’s just that I had expected more. More of what, one might ask? Well, I just can’t put my finger on it because the album sounded pretty much like I had expected it to so what it comes down to is that I just don’t think the songs were strong enough. There are some really great stuff on it but I think the album is a bit uneven. Already after a year the band had completed and released the follow up Black Country Communion II and with that album, the band was on the right track. The album sounded just like a sequel to the debut, fact is it sounded just like the two albums had been recorded at the same time. The difference between the records to me is that the second album is more even than the debut.

Another year went by and boom, another record – Afterglow – was released and it seemed like there was no stopping in these guys. But it was. To me, Afterglow is BBC’s best album to date so it was a big disappointment when it was clear that there had been a fallout between Hughes and Bonamassa and the band had split up. Both Joe and Glenn told us to not hold our breath for a reunion ever happening and Joe went on with his very successful solo career and Hughes formed the brilliant California Breed with Bonham, a band that fell apart after just one album and Hughes resurrected his solo career right away. Well, fast forward five years and all of a sudden, the hatchet is buried between Hughes and Bonamassa, everything is hunky dory and voila, BCC are back with a new album and “the band has never been happier together”, according to Joe and Glenn. Well, be that as it may, it’s great that the guys are back because a great record like Afterglow really needs a great follow-up. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that.

And the album starts just as I had wished it would with leading single “Collide”. There’s no doubt that band is on fire here. It’s a ballsy, heavy and groovy jawbreaker made for kicking your ass. Yes, the Led Zep influence is all over this tune but it’s a riff-happy monster that’s impossible not to love. Hell Yeah! It’s followed by “Over My Head” that comes with a very rhythmic blues-rock vibe and more catchy, radio-friendly refrain. But the tune is still a real belter with an infectious groove. Hot damn! Then it is time for Bonamassa to show off his vocal abilities. On the first two albums, Joe sang on two sand-out tracks – “Song Of Yesterday” and “The Battle For Hadrian’s Wall” – and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t repeat the procedure on this record. The seven minute epic “The Last Song For My Resting Place” is a damn masterpiece, see. Lyrically, that’s Joe’s lyrics by the way, tells the tale of violinist Wallace Hartley who played on Titanic while it sank and musically, it’s a folky ballad that comes with a swing and a mid 1970’s Deep Purple touch. We also gets violins that brings on a somewhat Celtic feel. It builds up a heavier groove but soon goes back into slower mode.

Then comes “Sway”, a kicking and biting hard rocker with an upbeat groove, a Zeppelin-esque attack and a driving rhythm that both shakes and swings. Sherinian goes off on his keys and his piano marries brilliantly with Bonamassa’s chugging guitar and with a really catchy vocal melody, the song scores a winning goal. Brilliant. “The Cove” is slower and more blues-based and dark in sound which fits the lyrics well – it’s about dolphin slaughter in Japan. But it also sports a swinging groove and the whole tune has Glenn Hughes written all over it – magnificent! Then “The Crow” follows in a faster pace, a distinct punch and a whole lotta attitude. It’s a very Deep Purple sounding track where Sherinian goes off on his Hammond like he was Jon Lord’s long-lost brother and the tune rocks like there’s no tomorrow. Love it! “Wanderlust” brings some contrast to “The Crow” as it’s a more slick and even pop-laden melodic hard rocker but still with all the blues based 70’s influences that is BCC’s thing. Sherinian’s piano is high in the mix here and he really brings the song home together with amazingly catchy chorus and the swinging groove. This pure brilliance.

“Love Remains” surprisingly shows off some pop-metal arena rock vibes weaved into BCC’s classic rock sound. The tune brings on a tasty groove and a refrain catchy as can be and just like “Wanderlust”, this tune really should be future single. Awesome. “Awake” is an upbeat song with a very melodic melody and a heavy grooved rhythm, very ballsy and in-your-face. It’s a classic-rock song but Bonamassa’s solo is almost progressive. Another really good one. Closing track “When The Mourning Comes” brings in both Purple and Zep vibes and it also has a soul influence, an intense groove and a very strong main melody. The shifting rhythms brings the song into ballad territory while other parts rocks with a bad-ass groove. There’s also a chunk of southern rock in there. A fantastic way to end an already brilliant album. Super!

Because a brilliant album it sure is – what a come back! It sure sounds like the hiatus has done the band good because the band is on fire here. Kevin Shirley’s production is very organic and dynamic with an earthy and warm sound that is both big and stripped at the same time. The performances from all involved are world-class but it must be said that Jason Bonham have probably never sounded more like his dad than on this album. Also, Derek Sherinian is given a whole lot more space on this album than on earlier efforts and the guy really shines, making it clear that he’s a phenomenal keysman. And when it comes to Joe Bonamassa, well, I know that he’s a stellar player but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of his solo stuff and in my opinion, it is in a band like BCC he comes alive most. The guy is nothing short of amazing on this album. Yes, BCC keeps getting better and better with each album and I find this record their best one yet. This band really deserves to become huge now.

9/10

More Black Country Communion reviews:

Black Country
Black Country Communion II
Afterglow

Tracklist:

1. Collide
2. Over My Head
3. The Last Song For My Resting Place
4. Sway
5. The Cove
6. The Crow
7. Wanderlust
8. Love Remains
9. Awake
10. When The Mourning Comes

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