In the last 10 – 15 years or so, festivals has been the big thing when it comes to live music, at least in Europe and they have more or less taken over from regular gigs. There are a few bands that still pull a big crowd, but those acts are getting fewer and fewer and the whole festival thing has become a big win win for both bands, booking agencies, concert arrangers and the fans. Many are the times when I hear people say they won’t attend that and that concert because that band is gonna play that festival anyway. Even yours truly has reasoned like that a few times. In Sweden we have been blessed with quite a few really great festivals throughout the years, the biggest is of course Sweden Rock Festival, but there are plenty more of them around and there are quite a few that concentrates on hard rock and metal. Now, on every festival there has to be a headliner and those festivals that goes on for a few days needs more than one headliner and the big talk now is what will happen when all the dinosaurs are dead and gone, when the huge bands quit? Who’s gonna be the headliner that pulls the big crowd then? When bands like Iron Maiden, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe etc. are no more? Will the festivals lay down and die then? Because even though there has been some big bands that has started out in the 80’s and 90’s, none of them really has the capacity to hold the headline spot by themselves. Sweden Rock has tried – Poison, Sammy Hagar, Soundgarden, Volbeat and In Flames has all headlined, but none of those bands pulled a huge crowd. The problem is that my generation and the generation after mine has become jaded. We have had so many great bands to listen to that many of us has stopped caring about new music and instead sit at home or in their car either listening to some dull rock station on the radio or listen to his / her old safe records. To me, that’s not only boring, but it can also kill the music (read: rock) scene. Kids today are content with downloading stuff from torrent sites or listen to Spotify which means that all the killer band that actually are around, never gets a fair chance to break through. And in my world, one of the bands that – quality wise – should have headlined both festivals and their own arena tours by now is The Answer. This Irish lot has released four albums prior to this and their retro 70’s hard rock, cast in the same shape as Led Zeppelin, Free, Bad Company and Deep Purple should appeal to a really big crowd. Not that the band is commercial or radio friendly, but their music is just so fucking (pardon my French) good and their tunes really aren’t that tough to digest, that it’s really annoying to find out that this band is still fighting to rise up to the next division. Their debut Rise (2006) showed a band that promised a lot. Even though the album didn’t go all the way, it promised a bright future and already by the follow-up, 2009’s Everyday Demons, the band released an album that should have brought them right into first division. They even topped that album with Revival (2011), still their finest effort to date and even though the last album, New Horizon (2013) wasn’t exactly as great as its predecessor, it was still a brilliant record. So, with four fantastic albums out, it’s almost like we’re just waiting for the band’s first bomb, the album when everything goes terribly wrong, because that album usually comes around sooner or later. I hoped to the rock gods that that wouldn’t happen with their new record.
Without writing a spoiler here, I can reassure every The Answer fan out there that a flop, this album is not – not even close. Already halfway through the opener “Long Live The Renegades” it stands clear that The Answer still have enough greatness in them to create another great record even after four killers and a nine-year recording career. If you love The Answer, you’ll love this tune. It has all the right ingredients for a The Answer classic – a great melody, a retro groove and enough cathiness to get even the most tone deaf creature humming along. “The Other Side” is a down to earth rocker that mixes the sound of old Aerosmith with Free – just writing it makes my foot start stomping. “Aristocrat” feels kind of noisy – in a good way – and has a cool bluesy Zeppelin groove and the song really is a hard hitter. “Cigarettes And Regret” is very catchy and memorable and even though the tune has a solid hard rock blues foundation, there’s a big pop feel all over it and I would strongly consider this as a single / video. For all people whose opinion is that the debut was The Answer’s finest record, lend an ear to “Last Days Of Summer”. This heavy blues / rock number takes us right back to 2006 and this could be a reworked song from those sessions style wise. “Strange Kinda’ Nothing” is a magnificent ballad with a U2 kind of melody. I’m not a U2-fan, but this song is damn brilliant. They slow things down a bit with “I Am What I Am”, it’s still a rocker with a big groove and enough hooks to start a fishing gear store. “Whiplash” is – as the title suggests – a more straight forward hard rocker, in your face, taking no prisoners. The Answer are really good at those. “Gone Too Long” might be a rock ballad, but it’s on the heavier side and the big chorus and killer melodies says that it has hit potential. I’d make this a single as well, if I was the one in charge. The same goes for “Red” and therefore the band chose this as the album’s leading single – a good choice because it has all the right stuff, it’s groovy, it has a killer beat, it sounds like The Answer all the way and it’s catchy as hell. For us who loves Everyday Demons, “I Am Cured” is a fine, fine rocker that has traces from that album. The title track is a nod back to the debut as well – a bombastic, in your face, heavy blues track and I’m a little confused that they made this the album’s closing track. I would have opened the album with it and also used it as the opener for future shows.
One thing The Answer always does is releasing lots of unreleased tracks for the deluxe editions. I know, it’s not an unusual thing in this day and age, but most bands just put on some unplugged song or a live version or a half arsed demo that we all can do without. But not The Answer, nope. They always has a lot of really great songs for the deluxe versions and part of me thinks it’s a great thing to do for your fans, but another part of me want those tracks on the actual album because in The Answer’s case, the deluxe extra tracks are usually just as good as – and in the case of New Horizon, many of the songs were even better – than songs that ended up on the actual album. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but the fact is that these guys only releases high quality tunes. I’m sure they couldn’t even write a shite song even if they tried. So I would strongly recommend the deluxe edition even though it might cost you a coin or two extra. “Feel like I’m On Way” is a stripped and raw rocker, but its melody is very catchy, “Flying” is pure brilliance, a very direct bluesy hard rocker that is The Answer all the way and “I Will Follow On” is a Zep influenced groover that I would love to hear live. There are also unplugged versions of the songs “The Other Side”, “Gone Too Long” and “Strange Kinda’ Nothing” and usually, unplugged versions are throw aways for me, they usually leave me underwhelmed, but in The Answer’s case, that doesn’t happen. They always change bits and pieces in the arrangements that makes the songs interesting and this is the case with these tracks as well. I guess you know by now that I find this album fantastic. It’s almost as great as my favourite Revival, it’s a bit more raw, but it’s still polished enough to make it accessable – a mix of Revival and Rise if you will. If you’re already a fan, you’ll love this album and if you’re not familiar with this band, then change that. Yesterday! This rock ‘n’ roll and this is as good as it gets. Their big break really should come with this album. It really must because I am a little concerned of what might happen if it don’t. I mean, how long can you keep delivering the goods without anything happening before you have enough? After nine years and five albums, it’s time. Let’s all chip in and make The Answer our next big headliner. Do it!
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
01. Long Live The Renegades
02. The Other Side
04. Cigarettes & Regret
05. Last Days Of Summer
06. Strange Kinda’ Nothing
07. I Am What I Am
09. Gone Too Long
11. I Am Cured
12. Raise A Little Hell
01. Feel Like I’m On My Way
03. I Will Follow On
04. The Other Side (Acoustic Version)
05. Gone Too Long (Acoustic Version)
06. Strange Kinda’ Nothing (Unplugged Version)