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Black Country Communion - IV (Album Review)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 Written by Simon Ramsay

Is there anything less final than an acrimonious rock ‘n’ roll break up? Hell froze over and the Eagles reformed. Axl Rose and Slash have reconciled in this lifetime and it surely won’t be long until Oasis stop looking back in anger and reunite. Cynics, or possibly realists, will cite money as a key factor in those instances, but Black Country Communion’s return likely won’t reap any kind of financial whirlwind. As such, this is one truce motivated by friendship and music. And boy, does it show.  

When guitarist Joe Bonamassa and bassist Glenn Hughes fell out following the release of the band’s third record, ‘Afterglow’, it wasn’t so much handbags at ten paces as tweets from a safe distance. The public spat, which resulted from their different ideas about touring, was swiftly patched up after Bonamassa extended an olive branch to the former Deep Purple man.  

With drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian back on board, in conjunction with producer Kevin Shirley, they set out to meld their debut’s irrepressible enthusiasm with the stronger songcraft of album two and the more soulful, nuanced shadings of album three. And they have successfully distilled their strongest traits into a monster album.

Collide and Over My Head discharge a battering ram of riffs and roof-shaking hooks. It’s a solid, familiar start, but things really kick into gear when Bonamassa sings The Last Song For My Resting Place.

A seven minute tale about the life of Wallace Hartley, violinist and band leader on the Titanic, it’s initially a folky Led Zeppelin ‘III’ number full of reflective mandolin and fiddle playing, until the thunderous guitar moves seek to evoke the disaster’s heart stopping terror. That track lays down the epic template for everything that follows. We’re talking cinematic hard rock, prosperous with Technicolor imagery and a face-melting equilibrium of pummelling force and emotional depth.

The Cove, written about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, begins with Bonamassa’s ethereal playing. Hughes is passionate about the cause and he’s rarely sounded as enraged, desperate and grief stricken as he does on its chorus. Wanderlust, meanwhile, is a meditative desert roller that grooves like Joe’s Heavenly Soul, with nice piano touches from Sherinian and a swaggering instrumental coda.

Black Country Communion remain in thrall to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but what could be an overly reverential imitation is rendered anything but thanks to the band’s huge personalities and tantalising chemistry. The Crow, for example, boasts a thrilling three way solo from Hughes, Sherinian and Bonamassa as Bonham Jr delivers the percussive backbone.

Hughes is a vocalist who, in recent times, has polarised opinions, particularly due to his wail on the band’s debut. Aside from the odd whiff here that’s long forgotten, and when he does roar it’s aggressively appropriate. The choruses of Sway sound like Metallica covering Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal, while Awake’s spinning slice of pseudo-jazzy elusiveness is thrillingly raw and elemental.

In their first spell Black Country Communion divided rock fans, but this album will surely change that. Consider ‘IV’ your boarding pass to the greatest rock ‘n’ roll ride of 2017.

Black Country Communion Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue January 02 2018 - WOLVERHAMPTON Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Thu January 04 2018 - LONDON Eventim Apollo

Click here to compare & buy Black Country Communion Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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