It’s refreshing to get an album these days that’s not overrun with the usual 13 or 14 tracks, and a glut of substandard bonus tracks. So I was pleasantly surprised when Black State Highway‘s self titled debut album arrived at my door, containing just 8 tracks. The saying quality over quantity without doubt applies here.
The Brighton based band introduce themselves with a riff happy blend of blues rock with a distinctive metal influence. Lead vocalist Liva Steinberga immediately makes you sit up and take notice on opener Conclusion. Her impressive range is more than a match for the Zeppelin-esque guitar on this groove laden rocker. Lead off single, Ain’t Got No, is more of the same and showcases some impeccable drumming from Harry Bland.
On the atmospheric Broken, you get more than a hint of early Sabbath, with Steinberga once again excelling, especially on the chorus. It’s no coincidence that this band met at the Brighton Institute Of Modern Music, because their musical intelligence is blatantly evident here. Guitarists Olie Trethwey and Yonnis Crampton make next track, Free, their own. With a riff containing a healthy slice of Deep Purple‘s Black Night, but the distorted guitars puts their own stamp on it.
It’s not just your 70’s classic blues rock that’s the chief influence on the album..Sacrifice leans a lot in the grunge direction, but is delivered with a hell of a lot more slickness and precision. The raunchy Tekkers has a delicious meaty groove that is incessant throughout. Gordon Duncan‘s brilliant bass line knits the whole song together perfectly. Penultimate track, Common Man, more than tips it’s hat to Southern rock with a relentless grinding riff.
Closer, Trouble, once again has Steinberga‘s voice dominating, which in truth is my only real criticism of this very impressive debut. But this band are only going to get better. Debut albums aren’t meant to be perfect, but if this is just a taste of Black State Highway‘s talents, then I intend on tasting a lot more.