Blues Pills – ‘Holy Moly!’

By Ellie Odurny

When you think of Nuclear Blast, the first band that comes to mind probably isn’t Swedish rock outfit Blues Pills – yet the indie label has been their home since 2013. Now back with third studio release ‘Holy Moly!’, they’ve expanded on their retro blues rock sound, adding both a harder and softer edge to their repertoire. With former bassist Zack Anderson switching to guitar to replace Dorian Sorriaux, new bassist Kristoffer Schander completes the quartet.

The band waste no time jumping straight into lead single ‘Proud Woman’, which opens with a spoken word excerpt from an equal rights speech, charging into the classic blues rock that exemplifies Blues Pills’ sound. If you weren’t already au fait with vocalist Elin Larsson’s powerful melodies, this opening number lets you know just how ferocious a tune she can deliver.

On the heavier side of things, second single ‘Low Road’ is a fast paced, high velocity hard rock number with fuzzy guitars and beats aplenty. The balance between the drum rolls, bass runs and guitar solos is perfectly balanced against those strong rock vocals for a standout track. ‘Dreaming My Life Away’ continues the rock and roll theme with a dirty blues feel and more slickly produced riffs, while ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ combines retro toe tapping rhythms with a harder edged vocal topping psych rock guitar grooves. Closing with a breakdown that builds energy and pace, ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ is a track just aching to be played live.

‘Kiss My Past Goodbye’ is the third single to be released from the album, sticking to the heavier psych tinged rock themes of ‘Proud Woman’ and ‘Low Road’. It seems an odd choice – there are some great slower tracks on the album that showcase the variety of sound that this band can cover, whereas ‘Kiss My Past Goodbye’ is a little lacklustre and sounds a bit like an exercise in blues by numbers. Nestled in the middle of the album, it’s a decent enough upbeat number between the slow paced ‘Dust’ and soulful ballad ‘Wish I’d Known’, but as a standalone single it doesn’t pack enough of a punch to do Blues Pills justice. ‘Rhythm In The Blood’ sits in a similar place of inoffensive but unremarkable rock filler, after a frankly odd 30 second white noise intro.

On the smoother side of things, ‘California’ waltzes in at a slower pace with the addition of keys to André Kvarnström’s deftly delivered triplet drum licks, the whole thing drenched with powerful soul vocals. ‘Dust’ brings a sultry jazz feel to proceedings, creating the classiest of sleaze rock atmospheres, conjuring images of black leather, film noir lighting and femmes fatales.

The dreamy guitars and slow cymbal crashes on ‘Wish I’d Known’ serve up a chilled mix between a country ballad and a seventies folk vibe, closing with a healthy dose of gospel thrown in for good measure. ‘Song From A Mourning Dove’ is the lengthiest track on the album, going on a straight up bluesy journey of guitar solos, southern rock tinged choruses, and that strong piano/drum combo we heard on ‘California’. ‘Longest Lasting Friend’ keeps things slow and mellow, with stripped back clean guitars and bare vocals ending the album on a soulful note.

Despite the line up changes, ‘Holy Moly!’ still stays true to the Blues Pills sound. The production on the album is top notch, which you’d expect when it’s mixed by Grammy award winning Andrew Scheps. The heavier tracks demonstrate the ease with which Blues Pills have slotted onto support slots and festival line ups alongside harder rock bands, and the slower numbers highlight the gentler, sensitive capabilities of Larsson’s vocal style. There might be one or two tracks to skip, but ‘Holy Moly!’ delivers a good balance of full throttle psych rock and blues infused folk, with skilled musicianship across the board. Turn it up loud and hop along for the ride.

ELLIE ODURNY

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