Review : Powderhead – ‘Don’t Let Them Win’

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One of the great things about writing for a site like this very one is that we absolutely love supporting the many underground bands in the country alongside the many established bands. It’s seems as though every week a new talent pops up and is ready and raring to compete with the big boys. Far from rock being dead (as some naysayers have it) I believe that the scene has some incredible bands coming through. Sure, things have changed seismically over the past few years but that hasn’t stopped the hungry young guns hitting their local pubs, clubs and festivals forging a name for themselves the hard way. Every town in the country has some incredible new artists absolutely ripping it up on the live scene and vying for that one big breakthrough. Social media might have killed record sales as they were known but it’s such a force for good as by the click of a mouse you can discover amazing talent on your own doorstep. Such is the case with Powderhead…

Formed in Cambridge, Powderhead have just released their first album ‘Don’t Let Them Win’ and it’s a rough-edged gem full of snotty attitude and firey riffs. Reminding me of some of the more D.I.Y. releases of the NWOBHM (but with better production) it snaps and snarls through ten tracks of hard rock that is given a bit of a punk feel by lead singer Helen Johnson. Like the brilliant Pearler, here is another band that has a very ‘street’ feel to it that takes the best elements of primal hard rock and mixes with it with a real swagger.

Opening track ‘Mad Phil’ sets out their intent from the off with it’s punk feel that changes just before the chorus as it throws into the mix some classic rock guitar that has a touch of Metallica. The sinewy twists in the tracks are a thread that runs through the album as each track throws in the odd tempo change which shows more of a freewheeling style of writing rather than a contrived attempt to do something different. Admittedly some of the little turns don’t pay off in the way they should, particularly in a couple of the chorus’s where it tends to lean heavily of melodies that are meant to catch the ear but rather seem a little out of place but it’s a small criticism. ‘Take It’ starts off with a hook laden chant before ripping into some furious fretwork accompanied by a banshee scream as it charges into a confrontational statement that takes no prisoners.

Much of the album features some terrific hard rock that takes elements from the 80’s and 90’s bands like Saxon, Pantera and Megadeth and injects it with the venom of 70’s punk. It’s not all fury though as one of the outstanding tracks happens half way through the album giving a real change of pace in ‘Forgotten Line’, the album’s sole ballad. Far from being something that is thrown in just for the sake of it, the track is a welcome change from the full-on tempos and adds some real colour to the cd. Not only does it really let Helen’s vocals shine but contains an epic and soaring guitar solo by Jack Lawson.

The album finishes in fine style with the real ‘one two punch’ of ‘Kick and Scream’ and ‘The Butcher’ that are powered by some sterling work on the drums and bass topped by some more vicious fretwork and grab you by the throat vocals. As a debut it’s not perfect but time will mean the band continue to grow in their song writing and arranging skills, adding more razor sharp edges to their material as indicated by what is an impressive full length debut. The album is available via links on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/powderheadband/

Words – Paul Monkhouse

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