“If Stillwater was a real band,” said Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams to me in an email once, “they’d sound like Scorpion Child’.
How I chortled to myself when I read those words. I really quite liked the band’s debut album, self titled and released three years ago. But I could see what he was getting at when I listened to tracks like Polygon of Eyes and that record’s standout track Antioch, imagining the band to have Almost Famous – the film from which the name Stillwater finds its derivation – on a constant loop in their recording studio as a sense of inspiration.’
Not much has changed as the band releases album number two, Acid Roulette. They’ve heavied up, considerably, but after a few listens I just don’t think they’ve delivered quite so many goods as they did on that debut. Opener She Sings I Kill will loosen the wax out of the ears of anybody who happens to be standing nearby when it’s being played, but it doesn’t really penetrate the listener’s psyche in the way Kings Highway did as an album opener three years ago. There’s a lot of bluster here – Tower Grove really rattles along on the back of a superb main riff, for instance, and isn’t half bad if I’m honest – but mostly it all seems a bit of huff n’puff for the sake of it.
The band is actually more effective when they take the pedal off the metal for a while – the lighter touch of Moon Tension, for instance is an absolute winner from the first time you hear it – whilst they Whitesnakey blues of I Might Be Your Man is absolutely superb, vocalist Aryn Johnathan Black really coming in to his own as keyboarder Aaron John Vincent wails away on his Hammond in the background in best Jon Lord fashion.
Christopher Jay Cowart contributes nice guitar work throughout, with the rhythm section of bassist Alec Caballero Redron and Jon Rice (drums) being never less than rock solid, and there are flashes throughout Acid Roulette that point to this band eventually becoming something rather special – so maybe we’ll just have to wait until album number three to see that promise come fully to fruition. Not bad, but there are better albums of this kind to be heard.
Acid Roulette is released through Nuclear Blast on June 10th.