Back in 2015, a reviewer’s download link of a band called Federal Charm took a dive into my mailbox, a band that I hadn’t even heard of then. It turned out that Federal Charm were an English band that had released a self-titled debut album back in 2013 and consisted of four young blokes who had a weak spot for 70’s Classic Rock. The link I got was for their then brand new album Across The Divide, an album full of catchy, groovy and stomping Classic Rock tunes that really rocked my socks off. I even thought that this band had a big shot at being the next big thing, but things turned awfully quiet and I didn’t hear much of the band after that. The next big thing/hype instead went to Greta Van Fleet. But now, three years later, Federal Charm is back with a new album – and a new singer since Nick Bowden left the band. His replacement’s name is Tom Guyer and if that change has affected the band’s music and direction remains to be seen (heard). But personally, I had some high hopes for this record.
Opener and leading single “Swing Sinner” is a rootsy, groove-laden rocker with both its feet in the mid 70’s and it picks up where the last record left us. It holds a somewhat darker twist and it’s edgier than much on the last album. It also reminds some of Rival Sons – very organic and dynamic with a punch. A great song that kicks off the album in the best of ways. Single # 2, “Choke”, follows with an earthy groove and takes on a late 60’s Hard Rock feel, kind of like Led Zeppelin meets Cream at a house party thrown by Free. It’s a basic, rootsy Rock tune, very meat n’ potatoes but again with a darker crunch. Good one. “Emerald Haze” is more mellow and laid-back on the softer side without losing any groove.The combination of melancholy, soothing melodies and a steady rhythm that makes you wanna move marries very well. Very good indeed.
“Death rattle” is slower paced, very rhythmic and down-to-earth with a laid-back atmosphere and a floating and levitating arrangement. It also holds a quite psychedelic and trippy middle-break that belongs back in 1968. It’s an ok tune but it kinds of floats by without making much of a fuss at all and was easily forgotten, unfortunately. “Nowhere Is Home” is very organic and even stripped in a laid-back mid-tempo and comes with a rootsy, early 70’s sound. It holds an addictive beat and a memorable main melody that’s on the spacious side but the refrain is very catchy albeit not in a mainstream, commercial radio way. Very good.
The band takes a heavier step with “Get Through”. It’s doubtless very Led Zeppelin influenced but not in a clone kind of way and the tune stands on a solid Hard Rock ground and the chorus is a real sticker – a good tune. “Concrete Creature” comes along with a fat, steady beat and it rocks out with that retro 70’s sound and again, the Rival Sons comes to mind which is never a bad thing. The use of acoustic guitars brings another layer to the table but make no mistake, this is a full-blasting electric rocker with a raunchy and sweaty sound. Very good. “Can’t Rule Me” is heavy and bouncy yet stripped and raw and holds a big retro-rock vibe and it’s not a wild guess that it comes from their parents Led Zeppelin and Free record collection. It’s quite riff-happy with a thunderous rhythm section that makes the tune swing like crazy. The somewhat dream-like middle section only brings up the dynamics of the song. Best one so far.
“Halo” is an uptempo, groovy, in-your-face and punchy hard-rocker with a driving and effective refrain that sticks right away. This tune really rocks. Great! “Speak Out” is one gritty mutha. Heavy, punchy, edgy and raw the tune tags along kicking and screaming with a mission to punch you out. With a bad-ass groove and a direct refrain, the song goes for the KO and the fist hits right in the gut. Brilliant! Closing track “Parting Words” is slow, trippy and heavy in the verses but when the chorus shows up, the tune goes into a more upbeat and groovy mode but at times it switches into a more dreamy and mellow progression. As a song, it’s good without being spectacular.
I have to admit, I didn’t get this album at all after the first spin but it sure have grown on me since. The change of singer hasn’t changed anything style-wise, only maybe there’s a bit more darkness over this record. As a whole the album does not contain any bad songs, but the pace slows down into a mid-pace after the opening track and doesn’t speed up properly until the last few songs. Not that is is a problem per se it’s just that it gets a bit samey after a while – and I do prefer Federal Charm when they’re rocking out and loosens up. While there are a few really good songs on here, the rest tends to be a bit forgettable. This is a good album for sure and I’m sure I’ll be playing it more in the future but for now, I hold Across The Divide as a better record.
More Federal Charm reviews:
1. Swing Sinner
3. Emerald Haze
4. Death Rattle
5. Nowhere Is Home
6. Get Through
7. Concrete Creature
8. Can’t Rule Me
10. Speak Out
11. Parting Words