Almost three years after the release of their very appetising, riff stocked debut album, UK rockers Grifter return with another mighty slab of muscular temptation in the form of second album Return Of The Bearded Brethren. The successor to their acclaimed self-titled full-length which delivered eleven slices of unbridled dirty rock ‘n’ roll, the new proposition finds the trio building on all the essences which made the last release a formidable triumph. With greater maturity and style raging through the songwriting and increased devilment to their sound, Return Of The Bearded Brethren is a seductive beast of a release with grooves, hooks, and riffs all honed to an irresistible stature. It is fair to say that the album is again not exactly creating new templates for heavy rock but definitely the band is giving another very healthy and thrilling stomp to greedily devour.
Released as their 2011 debut on Ripple Music, Return Of The Bearded Brethren sees the threesome of vocalist/guitarist Ollie Stygall, bassist Phil Harris, and drummer/backing vocalist Foz Foster finding a tighter ruggedness in their sound as well as a keener and equally potent adventure. Formed in 2003 Grifter, as shown by their High Unholy Mighty Rollin’ and The Simplicity of the Riff is Key EPs in 2008 and 2010 respectively, has never been slow in barging through ears with the meatiest attack of contagious big boned riffery and spicy grooves. Their first album set a new plateau for the band with its collection of songs crafted over the years leading up to its release, a base which the Rich Robinson produced blaze of The Return Of The Bearded Brethren has embraced whilst breeding its own dirt encrusted and invigorating character. Spawning songs themed by tales of “Guinness, ’70s sex symbols, drinking regrets, religious folly, and more”, the weighty treat of heavy rock revelry is one of those encounters which turns a party into a riot, a raucous gathering into an orgy of unbridled debauchery, and leaves all concerned exhausted and blissfully wasted.
As soon as the album hits the ears with opener Black Gold you know things are going to get filthy and lustful, especially with the following She Mountain backing it up with a similarly lusty seduction of infectiousness and sinew driven energy. The first track primes ears with punchy beats before unleashing the most delicious of contagion drenched grooves. The bass riffing of Harris sets a throaty spine to which the swinging rhythms of Foster provides irresistible bait, but it is once the excellent vocal lure of Stygall alongside his increasingly tempting string play that the song becomes an inescapable slave master to feet and emotions. With hints of blues fire and imagination entangling sonic enterprise across its narrative, the track continues to bind body and soul tightly whilst its swagger and relentless stride of vocals and sound is the purest anthemic enticement. Its successor is similarly commanding and insatiable in recruiting senses and passions. A stronger whisper of blues flirtation makes its touch known but primarily the song is again an anthem of heavy boned rhythms, saucy grooves, and antagonistic riffs which converge into one blaze of addictiveness.
To be honest such the majesty of the first pair of songs that the album never manages to reach the same pinnacle again but that is no slight on the rest of the impressive encounter. The sultry Southern rock twang of Paranoiac Blues immediately feeds the greedy appetite already triggered by the album with its flavoursome flame of blues angst and spicy sonic endeavour. Like Seasick Steve does ZZ Top with the weight of Orange Goblin behind it, the track winds around the imagination with a glorious invention and melodic flaming before making way for Princess Leia. Guitars and bass are immediately prowling ears, appearing its slower stride with bursts of catchy urgency, whilst the rhythmic taunting of Foster ignites a tension of aggression in the again impossibly infectious proposition. With it also having a video for it, the track looks like the lead into the album which is understandable though you do also wonder why the might of the first two tracks were overlooked.
The outstanding Bow Down To The Monkey adds its bear like prowl and smouldering enticing to the album next, vocals and grooves as magnetic as the jabbing rhythms and carnivorous tone of the bass are predatory. The song wraps itself lasciviously around ears with an open flirtatious enterprise to add another creative twist to the album, as does Braggard’s Boast with its raunchy riffing and acidic grooves within a bar room brawl of heavy rock meets classic metal. It is not a track which grips as potently as others upon the release but still has body and emotions leaping eagerly, making a great appetiser for the bluesy rampancy of It’s Not Me, It’s You. As with many of the songs on the album there is a familiarity to some of the twists and essences within the track yet it only brews up a stronger link between the release and passions for the main. At times storming with all cylinders ablaze and in others smouldering with a smooch of a coaxing, the track is a riveting evocation of old and modern rock ‘n’ roll, something Grifter are very adept at fusing.
Both Fire Water and the title track keep the juices of the album and reactions flowing keenly, the first an old school seeded rocker with a sauntering and mischievous gait to its infection soaked endeavour, especially around an addictive chorus, whilst the second is prime sonic enticing which again feels more like an old returning friend than a new acquaintance but is still as fresh and inspiring to limbs and voice as you could wish for. Its rigorous success is followed by album closer Fairies Wear Boots, a cover of the Black Sabbath track which hits all the right notes and sweet spot with a raw and caustically graced Grifter unique stroll. It is a fine end to a mouth-watering release from the band. The Return Of The Bearded Brethren is not a awe inspiring triumph or maybe one to squash all expectations but it is one to bring one of the most enjoyable and compelling rock ‘n’ roll treats this year and that is more than enough to get excited over.
Return Of The Bearded Brethren is available via Ripple Music in North America now and in Europe on the 18th August on CD, limited Vinyl, and Digitally and at http://grifter.bigcartel.com/product/the-return-of-the-bearded-brethren-cd-album
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