"Don’t Hear It…Fear It" ...

By Earthdog

I don't often get excited about bands mining the 70's retro sound and style but maybe once a year a band comes along that is just doing that little bit more with it. This band with the all so 70's name of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell have released an effort which is not only the best 70's retro-rock of the year but it is quite possibly album of the year overall. It is hard to make the 70's approach sound fresh again but this is what this band has done and the result is nothing short of mind-blowing.

If you are one of those whiners that hate the retro rock bandwagon and wonder why it is so popular, then take a listen to this band. Bands like this one sound so hair-raising exciting and fresh, they are like hearing Black Sabbath, Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin for the first time. Basically speaking, we are talking about the same level of brilliance and the same kind of instantaneous magical and timeless quality.

This band are winners on every possible level. Great musicianship, great songwriting and a production job that is miles beyond and above most other bands mining a similar style. The sound on 'Don't Hear It... Fear It!' is raw but precise, it is vintage sounding but fresh and it even has the vibe of the needle drifting across a classic piece of 70's vinyl. Now I will throw some names at you - Sir Lord Baltimore, Buffalo, Incredible Hog, Iron Claw, Jerusalem, Captain Beyond, Budgie, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, Hawkwind, Truth & Janey. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell not only can stand along-side these classic bands but in some ways, they beat them at their own game. I could kiss this band's butt for another 2000 words and they would deserve all of my unrelenting praise. Formed in 2008, the band is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Johnny Redfern, bassist/vocalist Louis Wiggett and drummer Bill Darlington, who describe their own musical niche as a mix of “neo-psych, garage, freakbeat and powerpop but that is understating the majestic and varied magic that is unleashed on this incredible record.

Even more amazing is the band have seemingly came out of nowhere, signed by Rise Above Records that has not only a great taste for doom metal but a superb ear for what makes great retro rock and this band is without a doubt their greatest find yet. The way they describe their sound and style only tells part of the story. The band is proto-metal, garage-rock, early punk rock, prog-rock, heavy metal, space rock, psychedelia, blues, funk and that is still only scratching the surface. While 'Don’t Hear It…Fear It' sounds straight out of 1970/71, this has an energy and an infectious fresh vibe that goes beyond eras. This is one hell of an infectious album but it is not exactly melodic. The gruff vocals and some of the strange passages ensures this is not a typical riff-rock album (The Sword this band is not).

The album is a mix of free-form jams, solid concise songwriting and electrifying instrumentation that is constantly changing one minute to the next. There is only one word I can think of to describe the grooves ------ Insane! The album also benefits from having a unique personality for each and every song and each song has at least one riff that leaves your jaw dropped to the floor. Each member of this band are masters of their craft. The guitar work is dynamic and exciting, the bass work is out of this world and the drumming is simply world-class. The vocals while being the weakest element the band has is still a perfect fit for their sound and style and I have already mentioned the wonderful production.

What is also remarkable is most songs sound like a 70's classic track but still sound unique enough to sound incredibly fresh. 'Devils Island' sounds a little like Budgie's "Guts." blended with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" but still comes off sounding unique and that is the story with the entire album. Opening track 'Mark of the Beast' starts out spacey and kind of spooky with backwards reverb effects before it launches into dark and chunky riffing with a kind of laid-back aggression. Grooves punch the listener between the eyes and really the album could end right here and that would more than enough to satisfy but the album (if anything) gets even better from here on. The following 'Devil's Island' has a sabbathian meets Budgie kind of vibe and is the doomiest offering on the album while 'iDeath' completes a trio of amazing songs with a tune that seems to be channelling Aussie proto-metal legends Buffalo.

'Red Admiral Black Sunrise' slows things down a little with a moody, brooding track with blends infectious grooves with funky vibe. There are more great riffs, excellent leads and vocals. The main riffs seem influenced by Buffalo, Budgie and Sir Lord Baltimore all at the same time but yet again, it sounds positively fresh and not recycled at all. 'Scratchin' & Sniffin' is half a free-form jam and half, a solid concise prog-pop kind of tune. They bring in a Hammond organ on this track which further compliments the authentic 70's atmosphere. Next up, 'The Last Run' pushes the aggression level to new heights for the album and is again flawless in its execution.

'Killer Kane' ends the album, well at least from the point of view of the track listing and this is the most off-the-wall track with oddball timings and a mix of styles that blend everything from early 70's proto-metal to N.W.O.B.H.M galloping heavy metal a-la Iron Maiden (I wonder how many people will spot the riff that sounds oddly similar to Maiden's "Two Minutes To Midnight"). At this point 'Don’t Hear It…Fear It!!' appears all over but it is just a chance for the listen to pack a bong or get a beer out of the fridge because after 7 minutes or so of silence, a hidden track emerges which is none other than a cover of Buffalo's "Bean Stew" and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell amaze once again by delivering a cover that is every bit as good as the original.

Now this band play like they are blissfully unaware it is not 1971 anymore and simply don't give a shit and perhaps that is one of the reasons this album works on every possible level. The production is vintage and raw as if the band was just thrown into a studio and told to hurry up, play all your songs and get the fuck out and this has created a busy, intensely busy vibe to the album. The gritty, no-frills sound is a perfect match for the no-bullshit attitude of the performance from the musicians. The band is tight but also loose enough to give this a very live in the studio kind of feeling and I hope they keep this going for their next release too because it suits them perfectly. A lot of bands get called retro or stoner-rock these days, The Sword are one example when they are basically just a metal band, pure and simple. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell on the other hand ARE pure RETRO but they are almost reinventing the approach to 70's hard rock music (take note I wrote almost).

The production on the album has to be mentioned again too. This is about as authentic and vintage as it gets, right down to an amp hum that is present throughout the album making the listener feel like the band is right there in your living room, bedroom or whatever. The production is raw but crystal-clear and the  vocal distortion effect that is used makes this album seem even more fresh as hardly anyone else has a vocal sound like what is on here. The last retro band I got excited about was Orchid, before that I have to go way back to the early days of Gentlemans Pistols so an album of this magnitude and excellence is well overdue. Alright I will admit that I probably sound like a bit of a dick with all this bum-licking for this band but I can't praise them enough. This is an early contender for best album of 2012 but it has already won one thing for me personally and that is "the best retro rock album of the last 5 years". Don't agree, prove me wrong. Essential purchase for lovers of 70's proto-metal and classic hard rockers in general, the new gods have landed....10/10.