Distinctive hard rock albums are at a premium these days, there are plenty of fine releases but there is generally a similar feel across them that though enjoyable fails to inspire any enthusiasm for yet another collection of hard rock songs. Thankfully London band Slam Cartel steps out from that sea of similitude with an album of the highest order and quality proving hard rock can be as exciting as any other genre and as varied and unique. Handful Of Dreams lays down a nourishing course of songs bulging with monster guitar riffs, thumping bass lines, giant drum beats, and stunning vocals that drip off the palate.
Already the six piece have grabbed the attention from the likes of Billy Morrison and Russell Brand amongst a multitude of growing fans and with Handful Of Dreams it is hard to see anything other than a bigger explosion of popularity for Slam Cartel. The song writing skills and presentation on the album shows a band not only in full control of their sound but one that aspires to take the genre to new and down adventurous avenues of sound.
Slam Cartel formed around three years ago, vocalist Giles Van Lane, Tommy Hendriksen and Terence Warville both guitarists, Marc Neudeck bass, drummer Steve Campkin, and Adam Lee keyboards, guitars have become a tight and creative unit that from the convincing evidence upon their debut will be and are a force to be reckoned with. Like the irresistible melodic hooks in their songs once the band’s sound reels you in escape is impossible and any desire to resist absent.
From the opening striding guitars and rampaging drums of ‘Wishing Eye’ the expectancy of immense gratification grows and by the last notes of closing track ‘Walk A Mile’ is realised perfectly. ‘Wishing Eye’ drives and grooves with stirring riffs, flowing melodies and an emotive vocal delivery from Van Lane that makes the track a classic in the making.
This excellent start is matched and supported throughout the album and with impressive variety. Their sound is hard rock but it employs and ventures into different directions track to track. ‘Handful Of Dreams’ with its rock flavouring that would compliment any Foo Fighters or Saliva set, the southern slower paced rock of ‘Breathe’, and the nu-metal urgency and edge of ‘Shine’ bringing a mix of Primer 55 and The Kennedy Soundtrack, all show the bands skill and diverse influences plus a desire to create something unique.
The album also touches and reveals the softer side of Slam Cartel with the ballad paced tracks of ‘Maybe Sometimes’ with an intro and guitar sound right out of a Wings songbook giving a smooth harmonious 80’s rock feel and the closing track ‘ Walk A Mile’. The first flows wonderfully with a chorus that rises with emotion, the keyboard backing bringing a full and passion tinged swell whilst the guitar solo is searching and visionary. The last song is an emotive piano led composition that show cases Van Lane’s vocals wonderfully as the tracks epic feel and lyrics tugs emotions, the versatility of the band and individual members readily shown. It may not have the more instant accessibility of other songs but certainly is as rewarding.
Though the album’s opener is arguably the releases best track it is seriously rivalled by most songs and especially the glorious rock glory of ‘Sundown’. The track immediately strolls confidently with beckoning riffs leading into a full out stomp chorus, the vocals, rhythms and melodies satisfyingly fulfilling as the song rocks in the ear.
There is not a real weakness on the album every area and corner in song writing to performance is refined to the smallest detail with the intention of and success in making real rock ‘n’ roll. Slam Cartel even includes a brilliant cover of the Talking Heads gem ‘Once in A Lifetime’ and a stunning version they do too turning it into a distinct song to rival the original. Handful Of Dreams is an album to discover, enjoy, and delve into constantly, Slam Cartel a band that will bring joy for years to come.