We cannot say we have a natural appetite for southern and classic rock, nor an over attentive interest, but occasionally something hits the right spot and sparks a thorough investigation. The recent impressive album from Norwegian blues rockers Electric Woodland has been one and the legendary Bad Company in the past another to light a fire of interest and pleasure. Now with new album Higher Mountain-Closer Sun, Finnish southern rockers The Milestones have lit another potent appetite with their hot sultry sounds. Another reason for mentioning the first two bands is that this album comes with a healthy soak of blues/hard rock to its southern sonic climate which brings potent comparisons in many ways to the enticing sounds of those two bands. Higher Mountain-Closer Sun seems to soak up those essences and many more flavoursome spices to create its own feistily simmering proposition, an offering which seduces even our more aggression wanting tastes.
Twenty years since taking its first steps and with now four albums under the belt, The Milestones has earned a strong presence within world hard rock since the release of their debut album Vol. 1 in 1996, an album seeing a re-release later this year. Acclaimed and drawing strong interest in the States, its success and the band’s live presence led to them traveling to New York to record second album Souvenirs of 1999. This proved to be nowhere near as successful in sound and impact as its predecessor and as the promo sheet accompanying the new album states, “Ultimately it would take ten years for The Milestones to heal the wounds.”
That was when album three emerged, Devil In Men in 2009 pushing the Helsinki quintet back to the stature and acclaimed attention enjoyed before on a global scale. It was followed by tours around Scandinavia, Central Europe, and the US the band supporting the likes of Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Black Stone Cherry, Gary Moore, Raging Slab, and D.A.D. along the way. Now they uncage Higher Mountain-Closer Sun through Listenable Records, a magnetic and fiery romp of instinctive rock ‘n’ roll taking body and passions on a fevered stomp.
From the first track the album seems to have a hook deep into thoughts and emotions, the opening Walking Trouble instantly smothering ears in a blaze of sonic and melodic haze with the guitars of Tomi Julkunen and Marko Kiviluoma a seductive graze on the senses whilst the bass of Veli Palevaara roams with equally captivating enterprise and swagger. Completed by the firm beats of drummer Tommi Manninen and the dusty vocals of Olavi Tikka, whose harmonica flair also ignites a twinge of hunger, the track is a storming romp to start things off and get the listener to their feet.
Both the smouldering heat of Shalalalovers and the tarmac stomping Drivin’ Wheel keep the impressive start heading along the same plateau. The first of the two merges a great sultry climate over verses with an almost too easily accessible chorus, its lure predictable and over familiar yet irrepressibly addictive. The union works a treat with a soft spot for the harmonica well fed again before the song’s successor pulls on a Stones like blues colouring to wrap its southern bred adventure. Again there is a simple but inescapable virulence to the chorus which makes a great contrast to the more intensive creative tenacity before and after their expulsions. Both tracks incite full engagement physically and emotionally before allowing a breath to be taken with the evocative southern rock heated scenery of Oh My Soul. With a breath of gospel passion and ‘red neck’ causticity, the track is a sizzling temptation which increases its strength with every listen.
The acoustic ballad Grateful is a pleasing encounter but lacks the spark of previous songs, though that is probably more down to personal preferences for feet sparking revelry. To be fair it is a vocally and musically accomplished song which at times sounds like a mix of Elvis Costello in his country era and Bon Jovi. The following Sweet Sounds does have the body moving with intent next and again apart from its stirring chorus is another enjoyable but underwhelming offering when up against songs like the brilliant It’s All Right. The track is an insatiable rocker from start to finish, grooves and hooks as eagerly tenacious as the increasingly impressive vocals of Tikka and the addictive rhythmic bait. As with all the songs on the album, you feel you already know this bruiser of rock ‘n’ roll devilry which only adds to its invigorating and refreshing presence.
Such the strength and tremendous pull of the track it gives the likes of the energetically fevered You and the melodically and vocally reflective Looking Back For Yesterday a stiffer task to match up to, but both without quite lighting the same fire still treats ears and imagination to exciting endeavour and enflamed melodic sounds. Their success is taken to a new level by the raw and gripping drama of Damn. Again ridiculously compelling hooks and grooves vein what is a darker and sonically fevered canvas to the song. It makes a slow initial impression but emerges as another evolving into a big highlight within the album.
The scintillating Fool Me brings the main body of the album to a tremendous close, the guitars of Julkunen and Kiviluoma bordering on sonic eroticism such the potency and spellbinding strength of their grooves whilst vocals and rhythms dance with impassioned devilry around them. It is a stunning track, a show stealer on any other album.
The CD version of Higher Mountain – Closer Sun is finished by a couple of bonus tracks in Call Of The Wild and Quicksilver which sadly our promo did not contain but such the quality of the rest of the album it is easy to assume they only add to the fun. The Milestones may have taken ‘ten years to heal the wounds’ but there is little to stop them now with releases like this.
Higher Mountain – Closer Sun is available now via Listenable Records @ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Higher-Mountain-Closer-The-Milestones/dp/B00ILWB4VS and http://www.levykauppax.fi/artist/milestones/higher_mountain_closer_sun/#cd
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