Blindstone: Rise Above
Formed in 2002 in Thisted Denmark, Blindstone are a heavy rocking blues power trio who possess a riff based ferocity that not only demands every second of your attention, but also grooves with a spectacular intensity that just gets greater and greater with every listen.
Releasing their debut album Manifesto one year after they formed and following that up with the excellent Freedom's Calling in 2008, Rise Above is the band's third album. The main focal point for Blindstone is the phenomenal guitar attack and bluesy, earthy vocals of Martin J. Andersen, however he is backed up by a ridiculously tight and focused rhythm combo of Jesper Bunk whose bass grooves lock solid with Andersen's stellar rhythm work and the sharp unfussy drumming of Anders Hvidtfeldt.
Like all Grooveyard Records releases, the first thing that strikes you, well knocks you off your feet, is the massive sound and perfect production. Cranked up as all good hard hitting rock should be, Rise Above will have you (and every stick of your furniture) bouncing to the infectious beats. Andersen and label boss Joe Romagnola have done a wonderful job creating a huge yet warm sound, however when you have someone of the pedigree of Kings X's Ty Tabor mastering the disc, well it's hard to go wrong. More important than the production however is the fact that Blindstone have put together a collection of fantastic tracks that add up to an album that drips with authentic blues rock intensity however still sounds remarkably fresh and vibrant.
Right from the first note of the opening title track, Rise Above contains a confident swagger and a pitch perfect guest solo from Tabor (reminiscent of Dave Meniketti at his restrained best),that will appeal to fans of the likes of Robin Trower, Frank Marino or even Richie Kotzen and whilst the feel of the album is certainly more current, there is more than a whiff of Hendrix about the overall vibe running through the disc. In fact the swirling groove of track two "Power Man" illustrates that Hendrix influence perfectly with a pulsing "Crosstown Traffic" riff and guitar solos that are blistering one moment a effectively under stated the next.
A sharp stop start snare crack punctuates another compact riff in the shape of "Keep The Rock Alive" and the lyrics tell you why this album is just so convincing. Blindstone are not another band going through the motions, no this is a band playing music they love and giving every ounce of sweat they possess. "Climbing Up The Ladder" is the first of three cover versions on the album and it transforms a light funky Isley Brothers classic into a punchy hard hitting monster of a track. Whilst remaining faithful to the original in structure the huge guitar and bass sound up the intensity times ten and the track is a huge amount of fun. The other two covers come in the shape of the excellent Hendrix song "House Burning Down", which features some excellent fret burning from one of Denmark's finest players Poul Halberg and a near nine minute rendition of the Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush song "He's Calling" which is a hidden bonus track and is worth the price of admission on its own!
With such excellent covers it would be easy to make the mistake that Blindstone need to bolster the original tracks on show, however that couldn't be further from the truth. "New Direction" and "Horizontal Activity" (I wonder what that could be about?!) both strut into view with a cocksure confidence that is well merited, while "Sonic Motor King" and "Wiser" once more hang on wonderful bass lines that allow Andersen to rip out more effortless solos. The quite wonderful "Beyond The Purple Sky" with it's obvious nod to Hendrix closes the album proper with the most restrained yet ranging solo six string work on the disc and while it may be a more down beat vibe to end on, the mix of poise and melancholy are captivating. Then of course comes that final killer blow of "He's Calling" to finish on an intense groove packed high.
Rise Above is a glorious, hard hitting and memorable album that is packed with wonderful musicianship and cracking songs that you just want to hear again and again and if intense classy blues that rocks your ass off appeals to you, then you will have to go some to find a better album all year. Simply tremendous!
1. Rise Above
2. Power Man
3. Keep The Rock Alive
4. Climbing Up The Ladder
5. New Direction
6. Horizontal Activity
7. Sonic Motor Ling
9. House Burning Down
10. Beyond The Purple Sky
Added: March 1st 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Label's Web Site
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