First time around, melodic rockers No Hot Ashes were big-hitters on the Belfast scene having formed in the early 1980s. Things were looking up for the five-piece of Dave Irvine on guitar, Paul Boyd on bass, singer Tommy Quinn on vocals, Tommy Dickson on keyboards and Steve Strange on drums when they signed for GWR Records in 1988 and moved to London in anticipation of the glory to follow.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite happen as they should have and the lack of a debut release led to disillusion and the band eventually returned to Northern Ireland where they decided to call it quits.
Fast forward to 2013 and the band reformed to play a tribute gig for the recently-closed Rosetta Bar in Belfast, once the center of metal and rock in the city. No Hot Ashes were back! In the same year, they released the Reunion EP and with the latest line-up of Dave Irvine on guitar, Nial Diver on guitar, Paul Boyd on bass, Steve Strange on drums, Tommy Dickson on keyboards, along with the original singer Eamon Nancarrow. All current members have played a part in previous incarnations of No Hot Ashes.
So, to the present, and the final release of their full-length debut album, No Hot Ashes. You could say it has been a long time in the making which it clearly has, but has it been worth the wait? In a word, yes. Read on….
“Come Alive” kicks the whole thing off in fitting fashion, getting the party started with a rocker to please the most demanding of crowds. Dickson’s keyboards drive proceedings and Nancarrow’s vocals are pitched perfectly for this type of music and he has a sound of his own.
He has a smooth strong tone with an occasional twang which could, if placed in the wrong hands, be great in country music.
The pace and freedom on “Good to Look Back” are a joy, with a distinct nod to the history of the band. There’s also a top solo in there too.
There’s a slight funk feel to “Satisfied” which is enough to get the old toes tapping. Nancarrow sings every song with such feeling, he buys into every one and takes me with him.
The first ballad now appears in the form of “Boulders”. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but is still enjoyable all the same and is replete with emotion in both vocals and guitar.
The ante is well and truly upped on “I’m Back”, a straight up, ballsy rocker. For a melodic rock outfit, this is probably as heavy as they get and they pull it off well. “Glow” continues the rock but more in the melodic vein. My head has now joined in with my toes.
A Clapton-esque riff opens “Over Again”, which is an enjoyable singalong track with the odd fist pump included if you fancy. The guitar break lifts the song too.
“Jonny Redhead” feels like a blast from No Hot Ashes past, with its choppy guitar and keyboard riffs. Whether it is or not, I have no idea but it still rocks along at a good lick with a great solo and is a fun track.
Now to “Souls”. This definitely scores highly on the classic melodic rock scale. Inspired by Journey and Foreigner no doubt, it has the big sound and pomp to mix it with the big boys.
This feel continues on “Running Red Lights” with keyboards and guitar in perfect harmony.
It’s bonus track time to finish and “I Will”, which is another ballad, but definitely not of the power variety. Acoustics all the way on this one and Nancarrow shows full emotion. It’s not like any other track on No Hot Ashes but is a great stripped down way to finish.
This album is out now on Frontiers Music Srl and is a triumph of determination over the passage of time.
On a side note, Eamon Nancarrow wrote a memoir in 2009, entitled Holywood Star: The Life and Times of a Rock n Roll Misadventurer. It’s a fun read and I’d recommend it.
**Also reviewed by The Meister in May 2018: No Hot Ashes Album Review