How to describe the sound of Scorpion Child, who just released their debut album? Imagine a dingy dive bar in a working class town of Somewhere, USA. This bar has seen generations of humanity come through its doors, every walk of life imaginable. Now go to the jukebox, sitting in the corner, with its vast array of music to please the diverse masses who donate small slivers of their lives here. Behind that jukebox is a spider, a veritable Methuselah of its kind; he too has seen his days, as his diverse and tangled web will attest to. Focus in on the web, forged through the vibrations of the myriad styles and genres of music that has poured out the speakers of the jukebox, to placate the masses. That is the sound of Scorpion Child, the end product of generations of influences and styles, laid out with precision and passionately executed. Blues, hard rock, and a touch of metal all blended together in a wonderful testament to the generations.
The band formed in 2006 in the hardened musical battlefields of Austin, Texas. The band consist of vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black, guitarists Christopher Jay Cowart and Tom Frank, bassist Shaun Avants and drummer Shawn Alvear. They spent the next four years firming up their style and solidifying their sound in one of the most diverse and intense musical cities in the country. By 2010, they were set to record their debut, and set off to Nashville for songwriting sessions before recording the album with producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith. The end result of all this dedication and hard work is clearly present in the final product.
The album opens with Kings Highway, and an ominous sound akin to a rattlesnake on a desert road brings us into some drippy, deep guitar riffs. We are then introduced to the voice of Black, who channels so many legends of rock and blues it’s scary, but most notably the passion and depth of soul of Robert Plant. Kings Highway is a blues driven number, but with some seriously hard chords driving it. The rhythm section of Avants and Alvear carry this odious load well, the bass solid and deep, drums with just enough flare and color without succumbing to any wankery. Polygon of Eyes is the second song, and the pre-released single from the album. This one opens fast, and never stops. Highly distinctive guitar riffs and rapid fire drums play in quick procession with exquisitely timed pauses, creating a terse and unique tone to the piece. Once again, Black shines ever so brightly, belting out with that rich and passionate hard rock voice. Secret Spot is a solid head banging song, bringing flashes of Blue Oyster Cult, at least for this listener, but with that swaggering style that I am coming to define as the sound Scorpion Child was shooting for. Liquor brings up that bar room swagger of a Black Crows, and thematically is a sad and harrowing testament to the downfalls of the alcoholic life, and the deaths that come with it.
Scorpion Child goes throughout the album this way, touching on a huge variety of influences, but always with that rich swaggering style of their own. Antioch is a deeply passionate ballad, with hard driving chords punctuating the soft overtones of Black’s vocals. Paradigm carries a touch of thrash to it, and an almost anthem like quality as well. It moves at a breakneck pace, relentlessly begging the listener to jump out of whatever they are listening to and rock the fuck out. Then comes the last song, oh man that last song, that brilliant slice of life that makes it all worthwhile.
Red Blood (The River Flows) has the potential to be a legend, period. That distinctive desert sound opens it; soft guitars lay out the atmosphere of sorrowful wonder. Then Black gently places his drippingly soulful voice on top of it, with a slow tap-tap of drums in the background. Such a lush, solemn environment for a song with such a hard theme, that of suicide. Lyrically it remembers sadly the life lost, and how the shining moments stood out in the end, a brilliant and heartfelt testament. The song then goes into an instrumental section that is all Scorpion Child, and is perfect, even in the way it slowly phases out with again the soft guitar and the desert sounds. Now here is the strange part, and I’m thinking it to be another testament of some sort, the desert sounds continue for some minutes, then the song reprises in a brief segment that is distorted to sound like an echo of a memory. I listened to this song over and over and over, I couldn’t get enough of it, and I hope I never will. It is one of those that I am just glad to have had the good fortune to come across in my lifetime.
Scorpion Child made every effort and put all their learned skills into this one, and it shows. The hard rock that this reviewer grew up on, the generations of musical stylings and genres, the years of honing their talents in Austin, soaking up whatever brilliance was around them and making it theirs. The commitment to the craft, the respect for the sound, it is all there, bringing that classic blues driven hard rock sound with so many distinctive touches of their own. A brilliant debut effort for sure, and I can only wonder where they will go from here.