Album Review: Led by Zeppelin

The spirit of Led Zeppelin has been alive and well in music since Wolfmother battered our eardrums midway through the 00’s. And ever since, a number of noteworthy hard rock bands have replicated the wailing vocals, long hair, bluesy distorted guitars and perfectly synchronized musicianship that is Zeppelin’s eternal legacy on rock music.Two of those bands, The Answer and Stonefield, are set to release studio albums over September and October, so I think it’s fitting they be reviewed together to salute the influence of one of the greatest bands of all time and to gauge what future (if any) rock music has as its popularity continues to decline in the 21st century. Album Review: The Answer, New HorizonThe title of the fourth studio release by the band hailing from Downpatrick, Ireland could not be more appropriate. With a new label (Napalm Records) and a more ominous sound, Answer begin another chapter of their career as crusaders for commercial rock and roll.The band’s desire to strive for a new approach is clear from the outset, as Cormac Neeson cries “I’m searching for a new horizon/gotta break through to a new horizon” in his trademark howl on the opening title track, flanked by James Heatley’s relentless heavy drumming and a melody dominated by minor chords. “Concrete”, “Baby Kill me” and “Burn you down” follow in the same vein, all three songs having a dark, aggressive feel and invoking imagery of death. And so for the first time in their career Answer lean further towards heavy metal than rock with their style. The band do acknowledge their past on the album, though, with some more positive and energetic moments, such as fist-pumping rhythm and Neeson’s staccato vocal line on “Somebody Else”, and guitarist Paul Mahon’s stratospheric wah-pedal work on “Call yourself a friend”.First single “Spectacular”, meanwhile, is a feel-good song about the promise life holds when you’re young, on which Mahon shines with some deep pentatonic riffs that have Jimmy Page written all over them.While these more upbeat moments might satiate Answer’s lifelong fans, the heavier sound that defines New Horizon won’t make them any enemies either—it’s the next phase in the evolution of a modern band trying to step out of Zeppelin’s shadow and create their own niche in a genre under siege from pop music.It’s also worth noting that the cover art for New Horizon is the last work of legendary designer Storm Thorgerson before his death in April this year. Thorgerson was behind such legendary covers as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were HereMuse’s Black Holes and Revelations and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, while also working with Powderfinger, 10CC, Anthrax, Biffy Clyro, Audioslave, Scorpions, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, The Cult, Dream Theater, The Offspring, Pendulum, Genesis and the Mars Volta. Album Review: Stonefield, Stonefield (self-titled)Amy, Holly, Hannah and Sarah Findlay have come a long way for four sisters who grew up in Darraweit Guim, a hamlet 55 kilometres north of Melbourne in rural Victoria. After learning instruments from a neighbouring music teacher and rehearsing in a shed on their parent’s farm, the girls exploded into the spotlight after winning the Triple J Unearthed High contest in 2010 with the song “Foreign Lover”.Barely a year later, the girls started gaining worldwide recognition for their dirty rock sound; in 2011 they played on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury, the world’s biggest pop festival.A couple of EP’s and national tours later, and we find ourselves present day, with the girls — whose combined age is still less than most people’s grandparents — sticking true to their melange of Frank Zappa, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin on their full-length debut.The psychedelic rock and roll machine roars into gear with a screaming organ line on opener “C’mon”, and hurtles along through “Put Your Curse On Me”, “Over And over” and “Diggin’ My Way Out”, as Amy’s powerful, sexy vocals stand out over her active kit-work.One of the most impressive musical elements on the album is the way the sisters so flawlessly complement each other melodically. On “Love You deserve” and “To The Mountains”, the girls indulge in a guitar-led band breakdown, where the vocals, guitar and organ create perfect harmonies while remaining tight and in time.Their awareness of what each other member will do next must come from having the same genes, and this musicianship is a testament to how far they’ve already come in the professional music industry. That and the fact they got a choir to support them on “Put Your Curse On Me”.The irresistible confidence and energy Stonefield plays with continues right up to the last song, the appropriately-titled “Keep on Rollin’”, which features the album’s strongest riff and ends with all four members belting out a vocal solo in perfect unison.At the end of the day, Stonefield prove they can match it with all others successfully putting a modern spin on Led Zeppelin, meeting all the credentials of such a band I mentioned at the start. Soaring vocals? Check. Heavy guitars? Check. Musicianship? Check. Long Hair? Definitely Check!New Horizon is set for release on September 30, and Stonefield October 11. Song previews from both albums are available on iTunes and Alexander Darling

September 18th 2013
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