Rough Silk

A New Beginning

Written by: PP on 28/03/2009 17:33:00

I don't think anyone can doubt the instrumental prowess of any heavy/power metal bands or their ability to write sick solos and huge soundscapes, but all too often do the bands sound like carbon copies of each other, like soulless bodies attempting to re-live the 1980s in 2009, who as a result sound dated and irrelevant to anyone accustomed to the modern music scene. The difference between Rough Silk and other power/melodic metal bands is that they don't take themselves very seriously, which is something the entire genre has been needing for as long as I can remember, and it instantly puts the band in a huge advantage compared to their peers in my ears. Case in point: a song like "Circus Is Coming To Town" is great not just because it's catchy and tightly played (how many times have you shaken your head over the 'epic' execution by most bands in the genre?), but because of its light hearted lyricism and an overwhelming feel-good vibe throughout, something that also dominates the rest of "A New Beginning".

But before I get onto all the good stuff, I have to post a preliminary warning: the first two or three tracks of the record are perfect for making the listener think along the lines of "oh god not another boring power/heavy metal release". "Temple Of Evil" features some stunning soloing, and the lead riff of "Home Is Where The Pain Is" is certainly groovy, plus vocalist Nils Wunderlich sounds much more engaged and passionate than other vocalists in the genre. But stripped to the bare essentials, they are both boring heavy/power metal songs that sound exactly like a million other bands in the genre. Luckily, the third track "Reborn To Wait" has a glimpse of the good things to come in the form of an infectiously melodic chorus, giving me chills every time I hear it, but it's really first after the crushing introductory guitars of "The Roll Of The Dice" that Rough Silk starts turning some heads and raising some eyebrows. Mr. Wunderlich has changed his vocal style from a leather-clad heavy metal dude to a happier version of Freddie Mercury, and it really makes a huge difference. From here on, there are few, if any, weak moments on the record.

Instead of being pure heavy/power metal band proclaiming things like 'death to false metal' (Manowar anyone?), a large amount of the heavy metal riffs and hooks in Rough Silk's music are deeply rooted in the punk rock scene. The aforementioned "Circus Is Coming To Town" is a good example, as it fantastically aligns punk rock rhythms and heavy metal soloing next to each other, showcasing a sound that at least the undersigned hasn't heard too often. Then we've got the bassline on "Sierra Madre", which could've been on any album by Rancid or Hot Water Music, further highlighting how Rough Silk occasionally come across as a punk rock band dressed in leather shoes and jackets. Although on paper combining punk rock and heavy metal seems like a terrible idea, it's interesting to see how a blazing power metal solo fits seamlessly together with a punk rock rhythm and a thumping bass guitar on a number of tracks on the record. The band have even gone as far as doing a collaboration with German hardcore punkers Subculture Squad on the hilarious garage punk track "We've Got A File On You", combining heavy metal soloing with breakneck speed, three chord riffs and gravelly vocals typical to punk bands of this kind. The lyrics are about surveillance agencies, and without spoiling more of the song, they are funny enough to make me smile every time.

But not the whole record is about unseriousness and having fun, there's some time to be 'epic and massive' as well. Now usually that type of sound makes me sigh and want to skip to the next track, but since Rough Silk sound immensely much like Queen on "We All Need Something To Hold On In This Life", it's a positive surprise on an album that seems determined to rid itself from every single heavy metal cliché possible. Even the final ballad, "A Song For Hilmer", which is (presumably) about a dying friend, is as enjoyable to listen to as it is touching. Then there are songs like "Black Leather", which is pretty much as good as it gets on the record: bombastic riffs open up a vast soundscape complete with echoing clean vocals, just like on any ordinary power/heavy metal release, but by the time we get to the classic lyrics about old school heavy metal ("Like black and leather we still belong together"), the song has brought back the same humour and melodic delivery of "Circus Is Coming To Town". You can hear from the tone of Nils Wunderlich's voice that none of the leather-worshipping lyrics should be taken very seriously, adding a humorous and friendly mood to a song that otherwise had a danger of coming across as freaking pretentious. Similarly, "Warpaint" is classic heavy metal to the bone - bands like Accept and Judas Priest come into mind for the undersigned - but the clean chorus has a modern metal (think Chaoswave) vibe to it and nicely contrasts the "WAR PAINT" grunts. It's small details like these that make "A New Beginning" work and separate it from its peers. Other power/heavy metal bands should learn a lesson or two from Rough Silk, because if it wasn't for the weak beginning, this record could've scored a lot higher.

Download: Black Leather, When The Circus Is Coming To Town, We've Got A File On You
For the fans of: Accept, Judas Priest, Virgin Steele
Listen: Myspace

Release date 23.03.2009
Dockyard 1

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