American label Small Stone doesn’t often get it wrong, roster-wise, and that fact is borne out in spades by this latest offering from the label, Lord Fowl’s superb Glorious Babylon.
Fans of unalloyed nostalgia will lap up every second caught within the retro-rocking grooves of Glorious Babylon, for sure, but that isn’t to say that Lord Fowl will be without charm to fans of more modern musical mores; there is, in fact, a timeless grandeur to their work which means that, though opening track Fire Discipline will remind you of Bachman Turner Overdrive if you’re old enough, it’ll also appeal to fans of more recent names like Gygax or Corsair.
The title track is a rattling good listen, staying rooted in the seventies but again never just settling for a feelgood a la recherche du rock perdu standpoint. Vechel Jaynes’ soulful vocal adds real class to the band’s blue collar hammering; Fans of Kings X will enjoy his style, but that isn’t to say he’s a mere Dug Pinnick clone. However The Wraith does have the same sort of allure that the Kings brought to hard rock at the end of the eighties, melding not inconsiderable musical muscle with a vaguely woozy, psych-rock feel which takes the best from both musical worlds to create something, if not particularly new, then very listenable all the same.
One of the nicest aspects of Glorious Babylon is that, despite being very much of a progressive bent, the album never drags. Lord Fowl don’t let riffs meander once they’ve achieved what they were written to do, with the consequence being an underlying sense of purpose and energy to every track. Only The Wraith weighs in at over five minutes in length, and album closer Space Jockey, despite being only four and a half minutes long, still manages to convey real weight and an epic feel thanks to the arrangements and song writing smarts employed. It’s like listening to one of those ‘condensed’ Shakespeare guys going through Richard III in six minutes. But with better guitar solos.
Producer Jon Conine gets the best out of his band members throughout, even affording himself the time to drive forward the short, sharp funk blast of In Search Of with a nice exhibition of slinky bass skillage, but in truth all four musicians here of such uniformly high standard that I can’t imagine much direction was required. This is classy, classy stuff, and deserves a spot on your record shelving very soon.
Glorious Babylon is out now.