SAMARKIND – Self-Titled Debut (Album Review)

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Samarkind is a blues-infused hard rock quartet from…well…from all over the place. They’re a virtual United Nations of rock. Their veteran lead singer, David P. Byrne, and bassist, Mark Dempsey, are from Ireland. Their guitarist is Michal Kulbaka, from Poland. Their drummer, Marius Appelgryn, is from South Africa. But, upon a listen, you would think they escaped from the swamps of Alabama. Their style is decidedly bluesy. Byrne’s voice has hints of Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) and Biff Byford (Saxon). Kulbaka never passes on a chance to inject a little slide guitar into a song, a la Ricky Medlocke (Blackfoot, Lynyrd Skynyrd). The rhythms of Dempsey and Appelgryn are heavy footed and groovy.  For a taste, check out the official music video for the single, “Sun Stroke Heart” below.

To me, when it’s done well, there’s nothing quite like the heavy blooze. People generally associate techniques like slide guitar with country music. But when you play slide on a Les Paul through a Marshall stack turned up to 11, it becomes something more. It’ll blow your head off. One of the more famous examples would be Zakk Wylde’s riffage on the title track of the No More Tears album. Also, it’s been over thirty years and I still can’t get enough of Junkyard’s inaugural album. Same with The Four Horsemen’s 1991 album. Same with Cinderella’s Heartbreak Station album. These albums all have something in common. That is, they all meld a blues skeleton to a pair of hard rock balls. Samarkind takes us on a walk in these artists’ footsteps. Tons of slide guitar. Tons of plodding swampy rhythms. They even take care to pay homage to the lost art of using rich, layered, background vocal harmonies. They keep their foot on the pedal almost all the way through, with the lone sentimental acoustic track, “Good Man Call,” to break up the blues barrage.

I’m not saying Samarkind is as good as their forefathers. But they ain’t bad at all. Give their new album a spin and judge for yourself.

BUY: Samarkind

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