When I was younger and cooler, I had a housemate who was in a band. Well, at one point, I lived with his whole band, but by this point the one guy was playing guitar in a different band. They played music that really wasn’t my thing but was the thing of a lot of other people, and they almost made it, and during one tour they had local bands called Hundred Reasons and Lostprophets as support acts.
Anyway, I still maintain that the reason they didn’t make it was that their singer didn’t fit the music. I would never go so far as to say he sucked, because he was a great frontman and his vocal style was a good fit for something, just not this band. So they faded away, and split, and went their separate ways, and now they live in Swansea, and London, and Dubai, and God knows where else.
I don’t think of that band often but I did think of them when I listened to The Bastard Sons’ debut album, Smoke. The band, a five-piece from Yorkshire, play an unflinching METAL, which occasionally forays into both harder and softer territory but mostly stays on the true course of uncompromising ATTACK. But – and there’s always a but, right? – it’s the vocals that don’t quite work.
That’s not to say that JJ Johnson’s voice is not tuneful, although the album’s first single “Release The Hounds” begins with Johnson adopting an awful grunting style, more that it just doesn’t fit the music layered underneath. That may be a purely personal preference – I like my metal with melodic vocals, think classic Maiden and Anthrax – but there’s a dissonance here that isn’t resolved over the album’s length.
But – and there it is again – The Bastard Sons have already found an audience for their very British rock, and have toured the US with Throw The Goat (who I’ve never heard but think I probably should have) and the UK with Snot (who I have and am glad I did). Their earlier releases have gotten good reviews from Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, and Terrorizer, and I’m man enough to admit those guys know a bit more about this kind of thing than I do.
I can’t say I’ll reach for Smoke when I’m looking for an example of modern metal because, really, who does that? But The Bastard Sons have produced a solid set of rock songs which will find its audience, even if the vocals don’t quite hit that sweet spot. Great careers have been built on less and I’d be interested to see what these fellas are doing in a couple of years. Hopefully not living in Swansea.
(Smoke is released on August 7th on Kaiju Records. Check thebastardsons.co.uk for details)