August 26, 2016 The Apocalypse Blues Revue – The Apocalypse Blues Revue (Album Review)
Not many bands begin with years of experiences on their side, experience that comes with the blood, sweat, and tears of being in a touring band. Co-founded by Godsmack Drummer Shannon Larkin and Guitarist Tony Rombola, featuring Vocalist Ray “Rafer John” Cerbone and Bassist Brian Carpenter, The Apocalypse Blues Revue are one of the fortunate ones to have such experience. A slightly different direction from their other projects, Larkin and Rombola initially began playing together in relaxed jam sessions soon to find they had something special. Tapping into a more Blues sound, the project has been a few years in the making, and with some downtime following heavy touring in support of Godsmack’s 2014 album 1000hp, the time was right for The Apocalypse Blues Revue to emerge.
Entering The Vibe Recording Studio in February of 2016, they laid down their self-titled LP in just nine days. Quite impressive, one may think, was this rushed? No, it was just long overdue and the ideas and song structures had long be pondered by the creators while on tour or whenever they had downtime. That being said, Larkin and Rombola have been musically compatible since the day Larkin joined up with Godsmack back in 2001, and that was clear when the two began their first offspring project in 2007, Another Animal. Now, without further ado, their full-blown Blues band hits the ground running with the release of the self-titled album as of August 26th via Mascot Label Group.
Beginning the album with an easy Blues beat and steely guitar, “Evil Is As Evil Does” unleashes recognizable vocals that take on a totally new, soulful style, conjuring up images of biker bars and pool halls. Followed by “Junkie Hell,” which features a war-like drum beat building up tension with slow steady guitars sauntering in, it is a true example of the Blues. Heartfelt, the lyrics speak of losing someone to addiction as Rafer John’s voice drips with emotion. Up next, “Devil Plays A Strat” begins with slightly more Rock injections in the beat and it is a clear ode to The Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” warning against taking on the devil.
Rolling into another easy-going beat, “I Think Not” comes on with more powerful vocals. Complemented by guitars, a separate guitar riff comes to the forefront, making it clear that this is a cruising kind of song. Utilizing a bouncy surfing-on-the-beach style, “Whiskey In My Coffee” mixes in high, howling vocals. An energetic listen, an everyday scene plays in fast forward, creating an undeniable mood. Slowing it down once more, “The Tower” lays down a back beat while featuring expert guitar work from Eric Gales. Slightly echoing vocals add an understated psychedelic twinge to the mix that is reminiscent of earlier Rock, all while still keeping to the Blues feel.
Kicking back into high gear, “Crossed Over” unleashes short-stopping guitars combined with gritty guitar overlays. The guitar work speeds up near the end, encouraging heavy, steering-wheel air-guitar play worthy of a rush hour traffic audience. Keeping up with this fast pace, after about a minute and a half, “Blues Are Fallin’ From The Sky” suddenly reaches way down for the low-down wretchedness, as if realizing the gravity of the lyrics within. An intense listen, directly following “Work In Progress” introduces a productive vibe, not just lyrically, but with the beat as well while warped guitars warble along with the pace set by the drums in foot-tapping inspiration.
With a slow, more steady beat, “The Devil In Me” comes on with stirring vocals. A little more on the dangerous side, the track explores what it means to live for that darker piece of the soul. Then, “Blue Cross” pulls influences from Country music, weaving them together with Blues and Rock for an interesting effect. Here, ominous lyrics are rooted deep with a heavy instrumental background as the song spends just over a minute incorporating jungle sound effects and music as its outro. A fitting way to conclude the album, as a bonus, the band offers their take on The Doors’ “When The Music’s Over.” Slower and darker tones spin around while holding on to a classic track structure, doing it just, but keeping it unique.
The Apocalypse Blues Revue debut offers up a solid Blues Rock oasis that features well-thought-out tracks. Combining amazing new talent with established talent, The Apocalypse Blues Revue presents heavy, dark Blues with attitude, darkness, and expert skill. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.