Calabrese has continued to steal the passions of psychobillies and horror punks worldwide since stepping forward in 2003. Album after album, song after song, show after show, they have been a persistent magnet for those infected by their distinct sound and riotous b-movie inspired presence, and we stand amongst the legion infected. So it was with relish we dived into the band’s fifth album Born with a Scorpion’s Touch which receives its UK uncaging this month. Each of the band’s previous albums has impressed and pushed the band’s adventure but with the new contagion, the trio of blood brothers, Bobby, Davey, and Jimmy Calabrese has unlocked a maturity and exploratory enterprise which opens up a new chapter for the band in songwriting and presence. The trademark Calabrese sound is still the potent lure but it is graced and veined with a greater expanse of styles and ingenuity to create quite possibly the pinnacle of the band’s exploits to date.
The band has always built their sound on the influential breaths of bands such as The Misfits, Black Flag, Samhain, The Damned, Black Sabbath, Danzig, and Ramones, and there is certainly no deviation from that potent well upon Born with a Scorpion’s Touch either but it is infused with a rich incitement of varied metallic and heavy rock essences within their individual sound. It emerges from this dramatic brew as an enthralling and unpredictable encounter, one which continues to make Calabrese a major force and provocation in underground rock ‘n’ roll. Now though they might just become a well-known incitement for world attention thanks to Born with a Scorpion’s Touch.
Released via Spookshow Records, the album opens with the brief American Rebel Death Riders, a primarily instrumental track which fires up the energy of album and listener with its mix of groove and thrash metal within a juggernaut of rock ‘n’ roll voraciousness. The track rampages down the ears highway igniting imagination and emotions before departing for the following title track. From the first of expected film samples which has always coloured the band’s releases, a ravenous groove breaks free from within a blaze of riffs and thumping rhythms. It is irresistible toxic bait from which the band swings their hooks and infectious chorus to predictably irresistible effect. It is fair to say there is not many bands who can breed the virulence to their barbs and calls as the Phoenix threesome and no chance that the band will lose their lethal touch, as proven by the second track. Again there is a broader hard rock stroke to the song without removing itself from the masterful walls of psychobilly and horror rock.
I Wanna Be a Vigilante continues the impressive start, its opening wind swept beach reminding a little of the classic Shangri-las’ song, is soon welcoming the croon of Bobby and Jimmy’s vocals and an emotively honed blaze of melodic punk spawned pop balladry with a definite Ramones like aspect to its expanding walls and lures. There is also an element which reminds of The Damned, a gothic glaze that only adds to the depths of the track’s drama. From its commanding presence the snarling bass of Jimmy welcomes in the next up At Night I Am the Warmest, a track which launches at the ears with a feverish appetite and energy once into its full charge. The rhythms from Davey thump and pummel with intimidation whilst grooves and hooks engage and seduce the senses, all held under the rein of the excellent vocal persuasion singularly and dually of Bobby and Jimmy. As epidemically commanding as a voracious fever, the track leaves appetite and emotions aflame before they are taken on another inflammatory ride by the sonic surges and hunger of Loner at Heart. The track burns and sears the sense with a predatory gait and intensity to its antagonism but tempers it with a delicious weave of melodic and addiction forging enterprise.
Both Mindwarp and Danger leave lingering fingerprints on passions and memory, the first an almost brawling stomp of rock pop with horror rock provocation and its successor a rhythmically menacing encounter courted by sonic beauty and a cache of insidiously compelling barbed grooves and anthemic toxins. It is a brilliant trap living up to its name with ease. Its might is as good as matched by the tarmac smelling heat of Ride with the Living Dead, the song just another which sparks imagery and creative thoughts as powerfully as it does the ardour which only increases its rapture for the release.
Only the Dead Know My Name moves in on the imagination next, another ambient setting the veil for a track which seduces with more swerves and curvy temptations than a lap dance and just as unhealthily captivating as reality fades away once up against the claws and grip of the song. It is a stylish and impossibly alluring dance with riffs and hooks instinctive protagonists to give full submission to, as are those unleashed by the brilliant I Ride Alone, though brilliance can be draped over every song on this exceptional inspiration as a trait. As with all the songs, there is a wider, richer colour and fermentation to the band’s songwriting and sound which simultaneously feeds all wants and desires for a Calabrese release whilst exceeding those needs with even greater challenging adventure.
Closing with the rigorously catchy There’s an Evil Inside, a more singularly rockabilly cast treat, Born with a Scorpion’s Touch is a magnificent slab of resourceful and inventive rock ‘n’ roll, one unafraid to push its and the band’s formerly perceived boundaries, though they have never stood still in pressuring limits to be fair. We suggested that the album was possibly the pinnacle of the band’s creativity until now, listening to it again as this is written let us amend that by omitting possibly.
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