Here’s another classic Hard Rock band that have more or less passed me by. Just like the case of Uriah Heep, Nazareth has always been around by name and despite me growing up with contemporary bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and their branches Rainbow, Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne, Nazareth just like Heep never made it to my record collection. I have of course heard the big hits such as “Razamanaz”, “Hair Of The Dog” and “Love Hurts” and yes, there have been a few songs by the band on a mixed tape here and there but that’s pretty much it. What’s even more weird is that the songs I have heard, I have really liked, so why not go all in and get the albums, like I have done with so many other bands after only listening to the odd song or two? Beats me, but I guess some bands just don’t catch my attention the way others do.
Nazareth was formed back in 1968 – 50 (!!) years ago – by singer Dan McCafferty, guitarist Manny Charlton, bassist Pete Agnew and drummer Darrell Sweet (1947-1999) and have to date released 24 albums, the new one included. With the death of Sweet, Charlton’s demise in 1990, the line-up changes have been quite a few and up until 2015, it was McCafferty and Agnew who kept the band going but due to health issues, McCafferty had to step down in 2013. With his blessings, Agnew decided to keep Nazareth alive with McCafferty shortly replaced by one Linton Osbourne. Today the band’s new singer is Carl Sentance (Persian Risk, Dario Mollo’s Crossbones, Krokus) and with Pete Agnew’s son Lee on drums (joined in 1999) and guitarist Jimmy Murrison (joined in 1994), the band is about to create a new chapter in the Nazareth book with a new record, their first since 2014. My biggest concern is how this will work without McCafferty’s raspy and very personal voice – a voice that was a huge part of Nazareth’s sound.
Opener “Never Dance With The Devil” is tough, rowdy and quite heavy Classic Rock tune with a headbang-friendly rhythm and steady groove that’s made for the stage. The tune surprises me by sounding fresh and alive and I find myself thinking I’d fancy a cold beer while listening. Yes, this is really good, folks. The title-track and leading single is a kicking and upbeat rocker, very crunchy with a groove that brings The Hives to mind – it’s a bit punky and attitude-laden. It’s not as good as the previous track but it’s catchy within all its rawness. “State Of Emergency” is an energetic, edgy faster paced rocker with a lot of punch and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Another one that will work very well live. Good one. “Rubik’s Romance” is a slightly country flavoured upbeat ballad with a Southern Rock groove, a danceable beat and a catchy as hell refrain. This should be a single. Great.
The boogie-rock swagger of the highly grooved “Pole To Pole” is the kind of song that makes you wanna crack open another cold one, put your fist in the air and rock along to the crunchy beat. This is a beefy, meaty, raunchy Classic Rock tune with a memorable melody that will work like a charm at any summer festival out there. Great stuff. “Push” is slower and heavier, a blues-rock stomper with a dirty groove and sleazy rhythm that strikes hard without any apologies. A kicking beat and a bit of slide only makes the tune dirtier – very good. “The Secret Is Out” comes in a mid pace with a big groove and a Classic Rock stomp with a crunchy and robust sound. It’s quite ballsy yet memorable which brings the song home. “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” sees the band taking a small step into melodic Rock when the chorus hits but over-all, this is tune is fat, chunky, raw, a bit sleazy and ready to kick your ass. Very good.
Nazareth throws a party with “Crazy Molly”, a big, ballsy Classic Rock groover that swings with a sleazy vibe and a dirty rhythm that brings out the perspiration with dishevelled riffs and smoulder. Gotta love it. “Silent Symphony” takes the band into American Stadium Rock without losing any Classic Rock crunch. It’s a pretty heavy tune but it also shows a band that won’t say no to a good time either. Good stuff. “What Goes Around” is a bouncy Classic Rock swinger with a good groove and a raunchy feel. Crunchy, earthy guitars mixed with a pretty smooth main melody and catchy refrain makes the song stick – another future single? “Change” is a slower, soft-ish pop-rocker with verses that are a bit dreamy and floating but holds a more upbeat and catchy chorus – good one. Closing track “You Call Me” is a slow, dark and melancholic blues ballad, very earthy and stripped and would fit perfectly in a small, smokey blues club. A different but good closer.
How much Nazareth does this sound then? Well, to me, much of their identity lies in Dan McCafferty’s voice and clearly the identity have changed. But Carl Sentance is damn good singer with a voice that fits Nazareth of 2018 like a glove. What the diehards fans might think of this is anybody’s guess – there will always be a “no McCafferty, no Nazareth” bunch of fans – but if you take this for what it is, you just might be in for a surprise here. The music is raw, rowdy and groovy with lots of memorable melodies and hooks and the band sounds, without a doubt, relevant by 2018’s measures – and they do not sound old and/or tired at all. For a guy like me who is not very familiar with the original band, I have no problem embracing this – good music is good music – and I guess for younger Rock fans, it’s pretty much the same. Nazareth are alive and well – it’s just a different beast!
1. Never Dance With The Devil
2. Tattooed On My Brain
3. State Of Emergency
4. Rubik’s Romance
5. Pole To Pole
7. The Secret Is Out
8. Don’t Throw Your Love Away
9. Crazy Molly
10. Silent Symphony
11. What Goes Around
13. You Call Me