One of my friends introduced me to Babylon A.D.‘s self-titled debut in the early 1990´s. I was blown away by the heavy but yet so infectious and melodic sound. These guys wrote one anthem after another and the second album called Nothing Sacred was almost as strong as I was to find out. Unfortunately, the band were a victim of the changing music business of the early 1990´s and the comeback album called American Blitzkrieg which came out in 1999 turned out to be nothing more than an attempt to adjust to current musical tastes. To say the least, I was very disappointed when I bought the album because I had expected the classical Babylon A.D. sound. I totally respect a musician’s right to explore new sounds and different styles but maybe it should have been put out under another moniker.
My first brush with Babylon A.D. was two years ago when they played the mighty Firefest in Nottingham, England. I did not know what to expect. The band came out hard, blasted me off my feet and put on the best performance of the whole weekend. That show leaned heavily towards playing material from the first album with select songs from the second album and one song off the then newly released EP of archive material. What also impresses me is that the band is still 100% original if you count the two classic albums. In 2006 Perris Records released a compilation of older recordings called In the Begining…The Persuader Years. Babylon A.D. went by the name of The Persuaders before getting signed to Arista Records which persuaded the band to change the name before the release of the debut album. These recordings also feature original guitarist John Matthews who left the band prior to recording the debut album. There is also, of course, the case of bassist Robb Reid not being part of the American Blitzkrieg lineup. On that record, Eric Pacheco handled the bass duties.
The band once again come out hard, kicking everybody in the teeth with the epic “Back in Babylon”. Lead vocalist Derek Davis is a virtual stage monster jumping back and forth spitting, moaning and groaning. On the guitar, you have Danny De La Rosa and Ron Freschi who trade guitar solos and duels in a frenzy. The backbone of these heavy and catchy songs are provided by Jamey Pacheco on drums and Robb Reid on bass. The guys also prove their excellence in the ”not too much talking” department and no other band is even close. The guys waste no time in delivering the goods and squeezing as many of their infectious hair metal anthems as they can into their designated time. These guys punch you straight in the face with ”When the Hammer Swings Down” which is an all time classic from the debut album and ”Shot o’ Love” which has me shouting my lungs out on the chorus. It is impossible to stand still and not actively take part in the energy that is blasting from the stage. Up next is the catchy mid-tempo rocker ”Maryanne” which goes down really well.
Babylon A.D. slow things down a little with the excellent power ballad ”So Savage the Heart” and it´s time to get those mobile phones out. Lighters seem to be a thing of the past. Both songs are performed with excellence in every field and with complete conviction. The highlight of the gig is reached when they blast into the classic hit ”Bang Go the Bells” and it takes you to a place where all your focus is on the stage and the arms are full of goosebumps. Yet again they choose to play “Sally Danced” which is the closing track on the first album and in my opinion not one of their strongest cuts. After that it is time to slow things down a notch again with the Jack Ponti penned semi-ballad ”Desperate” which also has been recorded by Baton Rouge among others. It is an excellent track and Derek Davis‘ vocals really shine on this one. As with all their gigs I have witnessed, they leave us on a high with ”The Kid Goes Wild”. They leave the stage with a well-deserved roar from the Rock n’ Skull crowd and I feel like I have just been run over by a train. I quickly realize it won´t be easy to take the stage after this monster that just left it!
Somehow I felt at that time that this was again the best performance of the weekend. When I sum everything up leaving Rock n’ Skull it still is, however, the competition was fierce. If I would criticize the band it would be the lack of variation in the setlist since last time I saw them. Omitted is only ”Loveblind” from the EP and ”Bad Blood” from Nothing Sacred. The rest of the setlist is identical to the one at Firefest in 2014. I think there are some excellent tracks off both the EP and in particular Nothing Sacred that do not get their shot in the spotlight. Songs like ”Take the Dog Off the Chain”, ”Sacrifice your Love” or the excellent ”Redemption”. When I reflect upon the performance I think the execution is excellent, the stage antics and energy of the show top notch and there is not much to complain about except maybe a more varied setlist. All in all, this values an almost clean sheet and the best of the festival award. I hope representatives of Sweden Rock Festival take time out of their busy schedule and check Babylon A.D. out. These guys should be high on the list of bands to book for the Sweden Rock Festival!
PHOTO CREDIT: Shawn “Animalize” Irwin and Brian Ronald