- Album Reviews

Snakeroot – Downtown to Ghetto

I don’t know if, like me, you sometimes hanker for the simple things in life? You know what I mean, you’ve had a seriously hard day for whatever reason and, when you get home, you just want something simple to eat, comfort food. Don’t get me wrong, I like a la carte food as much as the next person but, I wouldn’t eat it every day, no, when I’m in need of succour I tend to go for the simpler things in life. I’d take a bacon sandwich with brown sauce anytime over twice cooked, lime infused sea bass with squid ink risotto and seaweed ( okay, an exaggeration, I only eat that once a month) when I’m feeling low or exhausted. In this, I feel there is a direct correlation with music, I like my progressive rock and metal a lot but, sometimes, I feel that it is a bit complex, convoluted and overworked for the mood I am in at that moment. When that train of thought takes over me I will always revert back to factory settings and listen to something hard rocking and uncomplicated, music that lifts my mood and is all pervading as the music needs no listening to rather, it just blends into your subconscious. One hard rocking band that has piqued my interest lately is, yet another, Turkish band and one that comes highly recommended by none other than The Lady herself, Snakeroot. Currently, I feel that I am in some sort of groundhog day, although one I am exceedingly happy to stay in, as this will be the fifth Turkish band I have reviewed out of the last 7 or 8 reviews. To be fair, if they are all as good as what I have reviewed already, bring it on, is all I can say!

Hailing from Istanbul, Turkey, Snakeroot’s line up consists of Bülent Çalli (lead vocals), Serhan Akalın (guitars, backing vocals), Dost Akyıldız (guitars), Ali Evcimen (bass/backing vocals) and Can Turfan (drums). Love, passion, individual freedom, inner conflicts, rebellion and rock and roll define the philosophy behind Snakeroot’s music. Blending hard rock, heavy metal, punk, melodic rock, and NWOBHM, Snakeroot have been inspired by many artists ranging from pioneers of hard rock to garage bands of the modern era. Formed in 2008, the band went through a number of changes before hooking up with famous Turkish producer Cenk Eroğlu in 2010, Snakeroot’s passion for music and Cenk’s expertise made a great team that, over a space of 2 years, have produced an album full of soul and energy. For the album, the drums were recorded in his home studio in Serbia by session musician Vladimir ‘Kebac’ Ruzicic whilst the band searched for a full time drummer, the position now filled by Can Turfan.

When you get a blend of different styles and cultures in cookery it is called fusion cooking and, when I read the list of influences that Snakeroot have taken on board, I have a feeling that this could be a fusion rock album, let’s get the music playing and find out shall we?

Don’t expect any nice, polite introductions, Generation Lost sets off at a hell of a lick, an urgent riff and vocal are right in your face from the off, catchy and instantly likeable with an almost punky vibe to it especially on the punchy chorus and ably assisted by the impressive rhythm section, The scintillating solo fires musical bullets in your direction before the song runs out like a classic Billy Idol track, fine stuff indeed!

Cut so Deep is taken from a different cloth, a darker, more insistent riff is matched by the pensive vocal and solid drumbeat. The guitar is an ever present arbiter of cool, firing distant licks in the background as the urgent chorus lifts the mood slightly, everything leading with a more serious note, the twin guitars taking cues from each other and leading the track out to a sharp ending.

Well, if I’ve been impressed so far then the bar is just about to be raised as the cracking riff leads in Another Day Without End, seriously cool, Bülent’s breathy vocal adding to a suspenseful feel as the tempo rises to a brilliant chorus that overlays the subtly firing guitar that is ever present in the background. This is classic hard rock with an added something, something clever and astute, the rapping vocal section fitting in superbly. Where do you go with superlatives? Well, the guitar solo is complex and coruscating and just superb, I tell you no word of a lie, this guy can play and play bloody well and his axe is a suitable foil for the monstrously good voice of Bülent Çalli, another impressive chunk of hard rock.

The staccato riff at the beginning of Torn Apart gives a seriously funky edge to the song which is backed up by the pressing vocal, the short and sharp guitar break then leading in to a brief chorus. The pace of the song is compelling, everything driven along by the riff and pulsating drumbeat, another dazzling solo takes over before the song runs out to the frantic ending of this track, more an album track than stand out in my opinion but that is no bad thing when the album is as good as this.

Now for me, the best song on the album is Crime. The subtle piano and guitar intro sets the scene before Bülent’s voice takes over the show, full of feeling, especially on the soulful chorus, this guy has a voice that was born for rock. The rhythm section of excellent bass and quality drums lays the foundations that give the guitars free rein to paint a compelling soundscape of music including one of the best solos on the album, the guitar intense, vivid and radiant, simply superb.

Roses Whisper Your Name, the first video released by the band, is a rock and roll love song, never a ballad, it drips with pure emotion. The lush intro of keyboards and guitar blends in with a heartfelt riff and emotional vocal, Bülent’s breathy delivery is understated until the chorus, where it builds up and bursts out, stirring the soul. The towering and incandescent solo is another gem and just adds to the profound feeling that this album is begging to generate in me.

Runaway City has nicely piano driven intro that fuses with the insistent guitar into a hard rock riff that powers the track along, this feeling of urgency is increased as the vocals kick in, more visceral and impelling. The pace never lets up as the smoldering guitars are set ablaze and the lustrous solo slices through everything like a sharp knife, a suitable accompaniment for the fetching chorus, the song running out to the sound of that impressive guitar as it backs repeated runs of the chorus.

There is something really impressive going on here and that thought is just compounded by the next track, Sleepless Nights. If you want a blueprint for a classic 80’s metal ballad, you could do worse than this brilliant track, from the crisp, acoustic intro that is broken up by cool licks from the guitar, to the soulful, hard rock vocal, dripping with emotion, this is pure class. Bülent’s voice takes on a heart wrenching edge as he sings of lost love and heartbreak and you would be forgiven for thinking that the guitar of Serhan is actually speaking to you, it puts forth so much emotion and soul.

After the smoldering emotion of the previous track the punchy riff at the start of Thief in the Night is a bit of light relief, the song having more a good time vibe than some of the other songs on the album and a definite NWOBHM feel to it. The guitar is playing random licks and the drums and bass have an upbeat rhythm to them. The vocals are more hard rock than in other areas on the album giving it a hint of stadium rock especially with the light hearted solo, a sing along track if ever I’ve heard one, catchy and extremely likeable.

Well, my introduction to these Turkish magicians is brought to an end with the final track, Never Give Up, another entry in Snakeroots massive collection of rock style and influences. This is definitely hard rock as opposed to metal from the lighter guitar note to the timbre of Bülent’s voice on the crisp vocal. The guitar is here more as an accompaniment than on other tracks where it has blazed the trail, the solo a bit more pared back but just as impressive and precise. It is not a thunderous ending to the album but, in some ways, it is a more suitable way to round out an album that has so many influences and well, for me, it is another highlight.

In my life as a reviewer, or musical treasure hunter, I rarely come across some incredibly polished gems that I instantly like and yet, give more every time I listen to them, becoming more and more impressive and likeable well, in Snakeroot’s uber impressive debut, I have unearthed another one (well, in this case, Nem unearthed it for me). I called it fusion rock earlier in this review and, to a certain extent; you could call it that, because the band fuse their different influences together incredibly well. Actually, what you do get is a nigh on perfect hard rock album that hits the spot in so many ways, incredible vocals and awe-inspiring guitar being just two of them, to produce something decidely special.

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