Houston! is one of those bands that despite being around for a few years suddenly falls into view from nowhere like a starburst of quality and intriguing sounds. The band from Piacenza, Italy formed in 2006 releasing the demo Never Alcoholized within the first year but it was the release of their debut album Fast in Elegance in 2008 on US label Sliptrick Records that notice outside of their homeland began to stir. Opening for Vengeance and a first European tour followed through the year and into 2009, continually building up their fan base with sold out shows across Europe. Still though there was much more scope to be discovered worldwide and with the release of their second album Mechanical Sunshine on Tanzan Music on June 24th, a major stride will be taken to achieve that. The reason for confidence that soon Houston! will be a name on many more lips is because their new release is simply impressive. Bursting with 14 tracks of smartly fused gothic c electric and hard rock sounds fuelled by a vein of strong metal riffs, it surprises, inspires and most of all deeply satisfies.
The album starts after a brief instrumental with Planet Terror, a striding track built on tight nu- metal riffs and hard rock melodies and vocals, a combination that on the surface is not immediately encouraging but under the artful songwriting of Houston! it works a treat. It is with the next track though that the real uniqueness of their sound announces itself and shines. Anghell Clown erupts with a Korn/Primer 55 like groove with a slow Manson vocal delivery and intermittent warped circus melodies. The track expands with a hard rock group chorus but never strays too far from the metal almost dark industrial flavour. Vocalist Niccolo Savinelli can deliver many styles with his fine voice, from a hard dark growl, through metal aggression and simply with straight rock flavours, he is able to mix it up neatly and never going too far in one direction.
The next tracks Let Me Shout and Mechanical Breath stay more with the hard rock sound, the first being a relatively straight forward and satisfying song and the latter having a more gothic tone and strong guitar solo from Phil. The tracks do not move into anything too adventurous though this is not to say the tracks are merely ordinary but up against the more menacing and inventive tracks before and following they do not stand out as blatantly. The melodramatic gothic Black Rose rises up next with driving riffs and a darker intensity from bassist Gaby Facchini and the powerful drums of Giovanni Savinelli, showing the difference just mentioned. There is a cool gothic cinematic feel about the song and one can visualise a potent emotive video for it in the mind as it plays out.
The album as it progresses ebbs and flows, always holding a fine consistency with bursts of stunning songs regularly breaking out. The industrial/hard rock blend of Generation ’09, My Swedish Baby Looks Like A Star with its Dope like energetic and irresistible groove, and the best track on the album the stomping stormer Sick, Sex, Six, are all thrilling examples of the quartet’s infectious and inviting music. Amongst the raucous rock grinding sounds the band also show their skill with expressive ballads such as One Day and Cold, showcasing the ability and variation in the bands songwriting to bring something unique with each individual song.
Mechanical Sunshine closes with a cover of the Rob Zombie classic Dragula. The band produce a fine effort and though it is impossible to come near to the original it does make a fun way to end the album and after the previous great tracks it is merely a good enjoyable addition rather than a musical statement. Houston! has created an album that explodes with great sounds and creatively realised ideas and should bring them into the awareness of a much bigger audience. Further on they could explore two directions, the hard rock tradition or a harder darker metal edged sound which currently seems their destiny going by Mechanical Sunshine. This is a must listen release that will impress everyone who ventures into it.
Houston! will be touring across Europe in summer/fall 2011.
For more information, please visit: www.myspace.com/houstonband.
Pete RingMaster 10/06/2011