Over two years ago, French rock band Southern Badass impressed with debut album Born In Mud, a warts and all release revealing a rich sound and potential which lit ears and a keen anticipation for the band’s evolution. Now it returns with second full-length Raised In Blood, a dirtier, grittier proposal infusing an even broader array of styles and flavours to its core southern rock/stoner bred sound with the same pleasing success.
Southern Badass is the solo project of Perpignan hailing multi-instrumentalist Arno Bechet, who seemingly draws on the likes of Black Label Society, Down, Black Sabbath, and Corrosion Of Conformity amongst many for his blend of heavy metal, stoner, sludge, and southern rock. Debut album Born In Mud certainly awoke potent attention with is release in 2013, a focus sure to replicated and surpassed by the tighter, more mature and fiery Raised In Blood. Again it is a proposition unafraid to be raw whilst embracing any small issues it may carry, but is openly a sparkling step forward from its accomplished predecessor.
The album opens with its title track, Raised in Blood quickly spilling a mist of sonic incitement led by bulging rhythms and abrasive riffs. Grooves are never retired in the music of Bechet, and straight away a juicy one is encircling and enticing ears before the song settles into a thick and steady stride. The vocals are as raw and at times as strained as on the first album, sometimes pushing their limits too much and in other moments providing the perfect roar to the brewing intensity and persuasion of sound. Fair to say, Bechet may not be the best and most natural vocalist but his musicianship is a gripping affair, more grooves and wiry riffs in the song potent proof alone.
The enjoyable swaggering start to the album continues with Burn into Eternity as resonating rhythms and electronic beats provide the spark to flames of guitar and vocal expression, Bechet finding a stronger more consistent delivery on the quickly persuasive encounter. The track has an earthy dark groove as its temptress, its thick lure embracing the more volatile and imaginative elements of the song and only stepping back for a low key and captivating melodic passage just after midway. Ending on a pungent blaze of a finale, the track is followed by the sharp southern rock tang of When I’m Dead. A mix of heavy and hard rock, it begins the strong variety of sound also emerging across the album, though it still has that inbred stoner core to its strong stroll.
Both Under the Red Sun and Last One Standing keep things interesting and satisfying, the first of the two slowly growing from a shadow rich reflective croon of Guns N’ Roses coloured, blues kissed rock into a full and impassioned rock ‘n’ roll bellow. It still holds a reserved gait for the main though, the guitar craft and enterprise of Bechet again the attention grabber before its successor gets down and dirty with aggressive riffs and grouchy vocals. It too holds court on ears; grooves and rhythms especially dominate in the pleasing engagement, though both songs are outshone by the sultry tempting of La Marche des Morts. French sung, the song has the atmospheric heat of a Morricone composed landscape and the muscular threat of a Mastodon bred proposal, and is thoroughly riveting.
As good as the first half of the album is, from this excellent track on Raised In Blood seems to hit another level. House of the Swolen Goat is next and with Black Tusk like grooves and a new direction in vocals within a smouldering sonic glow, instantly stands above earlier songs, even its impressive predecessor. A rich and heated tapestry of rock tenacity, the track makes way for the dark country enticing of Down by the River. There is a haunting air to its dark shimmer and an incendiary impact to its subsequent volcanic expulsions of guitar and vocals, the song shadowed wrapped balladry to get greedy over.
The Lesson is just as thrilling; its opening rhythmic bait and cantankerous bass moan anthemic might escalated by the driving charge of riffs which quickly bring feisty energy and magnetism to the excellent encounter. The track eventually spreads into a more controlled and expansively laid southern tinged rock ‘n’ roll, its potency and lure evolving rather than diminishing as Bechet lets his guitar craft also run a creative riot over ears and appetite.
Completed by Sphere of Io, a song which makes a messy start but turns into another sinew driven rampancy of heavy riffery and grooved slavery, Raised In Blood is another very enjoyable and accomplished slab of ravenous rock ‘n’ roll from Southern Badass. It has issues and as mentioned has a second half which leaves the first in the shade but if looking for some honest and organic heavy rock/metal this is definitely well worth a good hard listen.
Raised In Blood is out now digitally and as a double disc vinyl @ https://southernbadass.bandcamp.com/album/raised-in-blood