With every release since they emerged in 2011 and unleashed the instantly captivating track Danzig, UK rockers Thirteen Shots has evolved their sound, each encounter seeing the Birmingham quartet infuse richer and broader flavours and styles into their core tempest of horror bred rock ‘n’ roll. Each step has also come with an increasing amount of acclaim but fair to say that Thirteen Shots have easily outdone themselves with new album Black Smiles. It is a dramatically eclectic mix of songs and genres honed into one increasingly captivating and addictive proposition, and what it might lack a touch in consistency it more than makes up in riotous contagion.
Since whipping up attention with the horror punk sculpted Danzig, Thirteen Shots has been on a creative and attention grabbing roll. Shows with the likes of Demented are Go, The Peacocks, Rezurex, Howling Wolfmen, and Graveyard Johnnys helped establish the band as one of the UK’s most exciting horror/garage punk newcomers and now a band whose shows and releases are constantly highly anticipated. Previous albums Vaudeville and Tales That Start With A Whisper certainly pushed the band’s sound and presence forward but it was last year’s White Noise which made the biggest step in bold adventure and diversity. Hindsight though shows its potent success and contents were just an early hint for bigger and more ambitious things now ripening within Black Smiles.
Recorded with Paul Hughes, Black Smiles is based on the old school movie experience of double features with each song playing part in a cinematic experience. It all starts with Cobradeer, which acts like a promotional trailer to the other tracks which are like serial episodes within the main feature of the album. The opener is an immediate rush of fiercely slapping rhythms and ferocious riffs, the song blasting ears into keen attention before relaxing into a more tempered stroll as the distinct vocals of Johnny Rose open up the narrative. The chorus kicks the adrenaline switch again with the song swinging between both attacks as it provides an increasingly spicy musical/lyrical introduction to the album.
It is a strong and enjoyable beginning quickly surpassed by the following Run and Hide. From the great initial throaty bassline cast by George Chick and the quickly joining equally predatory beats of drummer Tom Fenn, the track has imagination and appetite hooked. The surf shimmer of guitar and controlled tones of Rose only increase the potency as drama and sinister seduction blossom their tempting too. Subsequently a more hard rock enterprise is spun by guitarist Lewis Machip as the encounter’s chorus roars, contrasts swapping moments in the lengthening landscape of the excellent song. With its weave also knitted with garage and melodic rock as well as punk and blues tenacity, it is a swift unveiling of the variety and diversity destined to continue through sound and album.
Next Cupid´s Dead romps through fresh scenery too, its punk/garage rock devilry seemingly bred from a mix of The Clash and Blitzkid. At not much more than a brain munch past a minute in length, the track is a punk stomp to breed an addiction for and quickly matched in its individual way by the dirty rock ‘n’ roll revelry of Warewolf Party. A spicy groove is the first infection with the song’s raw air and fiery sound the second, it all united in a riveting and easy persuasion lorded over by the honest tones of Rose before it then makes way for the anthemic rampage of Garage Crew. Chick once again is the kindling to a feisty blaze with his opening dark bass prowl, every note a resonating treat leading ears into the brawling surge of riffs and rabid rhythms fuelling the song. That bass becomes even more bestial in tone as the song lurches from one explosive assault to another premeditated predatory stroll and back; punk, horror, and subsequently blues rock entwining in its anthemic contagion.
Night of Sin doses itself up with a big shot of blues guitar and rock ‘n’ roll next, Machips’s enterprise tangy liquor in the heavy intimidating embrace of the rhythms. The ever unpolished punk delivery of Rose ensures an alluring earthy feel is always present o the album, even here where strings reveal their most accomplished and intoxicating beauty. It is a constantly rewarding mix again in evidence, after the tantalising refreshment of the melodic and acoustic croon that is Interlude, in the psychotic Skitzo. A delta blues tang coats the guitar’s endeavour bringing the incoming stomp into view, the flavouring a persistent tempting as the song erupts and blazes with persistent blues punk tenacity.
A enticing swagger comes with Black Eyed Girl next, the song like a moonlit seductress swinging its melodic hips as the more restrained and continually impressive voice of Rose introduces the moment’s protagonist. It is a gripping danger and intrigue which retains its potency as the song expels another bluesy flame of raw energy and sound. The entwining continues until the song can contain itself no more and reveals itself as a dirty raucous rocker for a bellow of a persuasion.
The swinging hips of Punk Betty flirts in a similar vein to its predecessor, its saunter a punk infused hard rock bait but with the same catchy resourcefulness. It does not admittedly have the same spark as previous songs, that inescapable lure but with one delicious bassline and the anthemic mischief of the vocals, it only keeps appetite and satisfaction eager before passing attention over to the album’s title track. It too is missing something to set, as earlier tracks, personal tastes ablaze, a particular uniqueness to spark their lust but once more its dark hearted rock ‘n roll and lyrical enterprise, not forgetting predation bass and sonic veining, is nothing less than rousing.
Lost Soul is soon a full seduction though. Its surf and horror rock romance is a sultry incitement of ears and imagination, undiluted persuasion caressed by a garage rock smoulder and flirted with by a ska seeded tempting. To be honest there is an even richer tapestry of flavours in easily the best song on the album, plenty to be discovered as the track alone sparks real excitement and anticipation for the continual and increasing potential and growth of Thirteen Shots.
There is a final raw explosion of punk and garage hostility in the shape of Friday 13, a bracing and unpolished finale to another thoroughly enjoyable and riveting adventure with Thirteen Shots. As always with a record from the band there is a dramatic potential of even bigger and major things ahead, the foursome getting closer to their pinnacle each time but equally raising that bar with every offering too. They have a classic within them for sure and it will have its day but right now we all have the opportunity to go on a rigorously enjoyable romp in great exploits like Black Smiles.
Black Smiles is released on June 29th and can be pre-ordered via https://thirteenshots.bandcamp.com/ and https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/black-smiles/id994668019 in various options.