The past days have seen the unveiling of the sophomore EP of South African rock singer-songwriter ROSS HARDING. Earlier this year its predecessor, Rest & Resurrection, stirred keen praise and attention, a warm up we suggest though for the greater awareness and recognition Chapter II has the sure potential to ignite. Offering five tracks bred in an embrace of varied rock flavours, the new outing proved an ear grabbing, imagination involving proposition which we swiftly found a healthy appetite for.
Hailing from Johannesburg, Harding has equally, alongside his solo exploits, drawn plaudits with BLACK HARBOUR BLUES, a blues rock band he formed in 2017 and South African rock super group FEAR OF FALLING which he also fronts. As revealed by his solo EPs, he draws on the rich essences of classic hard rock, grunge and blues rock for his sound with plenty more in its recipe, an incitement proving it can find keen audiences across his sharing of stages with the likes of DAN PATLANSKY, FOKOFPOLISIEKAR, THE NARROW, and PRIME CIRCLE.
As revealed within the Byron Muller produced Chapter II, his sound has an instinctive temptation which embraces openly familiar essences but merged with Harding’s craft and invention quickly forges keen individuality. It makes for a fresh and compelling proposition with the EP immediately controlling attention with its opener, Black Sun Blues. Instantly Harding’s guitar evocatively winds threads around ears, a calm but firm lure soon joined by lively riffs and sonic blues lit flames. Similarly, his vocals proved magnetically potent as rhythms strolled with a sense of menace and contagious manipulation. Fair to say that the track made an immediately striking impression in craft and temptation, the volatility in its heart and emotive anxiety in its grunge kilned roar sealing the deal.
The impressive start is only escalated by the following Blood & Bones, the song strolling through ears with an organic swing and again an impassioned breath. As with the first track, light and dark aligned in its tension and infectiousness; emotional drama fuelling its contemplation and intensity as the song gripped ears with a sound akin to a mix of STARVING FOR GRAVITY and PEARL JAM.
Love & Time is next up, its air and gait lighter than its predecessors but sharing their emotional unease and clamour leaning unrest around rhythmic manipulation. From a lean trespass to a rousing blaze, the song spun webs of intrigue and rich enticement from start to finish before Fire Away uncaged its predacious seduction and fiery turbulence. Another fire of sound and captivation of dextrous craft, with its flaming melodies, singed grooves and rapacious riffs set in matching prowess, there proved no escaping its hungry hold.
The EP closes with Let It Go II (Return), a blues cast track which maybe took a listen or so longer than its companions to get under the skin but eventually had us ruminating and hollering with equal eagerness. Bottom line, it is a song epitomising the richness of Harding’s sound and his songwriting as well as his attention luring virtuosity.
From the last note of our first play, we can only say that Chapter II has drawn us back with keen regularity and has only further impressed with every listen; that alone good reason enough for your curiosity we suggest.
Chapter II is out now; available across most online sites.
Pete RingMaster 10/11/2022
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