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The world of rock and metal has always spewed out ephemeral supergroups which are often a mere excuse for musicians to have a bit of fun away from their day-job bands and solo careers. However, the past couple of years has seen a slightly different trend emerge, most notably when Chickenfoot unleashed their debut album in 2009 with the proclamation that they're not a "supergroup" in the general perception of that label, rather a more serious band who were embarking on a new venture that would transcend the ephemera of the usual supergroup shelf-life. Such a claim seems set to be corroborated with their forthcoming second album in autumn this year. And last year saw the formation and debut release of Black Country Communion, constituted by rock luminaries Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. Whether they have yet to vocally eschew the supergroup tag I am unaware but it seems this is another serious musical venture as they already have a sophomore album, unimaginatively though aptly titled '2', released within nine months of their first. The cynical music fan and journalist might be tempted to hurl an accusation of BCC cashing in on the success of the first with such a small gap between release dates but, I can assure you, this is not in any small way the case. BCC's latest is quality through and through and I predict it will both consolidate and expand their already established reputation as a force to be reckoned with. In one sense, what we have here is a series of fairly straight-forward, all-out ballsy, rock/metal compositions with a prominent 70s/80s vibe but with five of the eleven tracks clocking in above the six minute mark and two of these verging on eight minutes, Black Country Communion, at times, allow their songwriting prowess enough breathing space to develop some interesting sonic atmospheres beyond the quick hit of generic pastiche. While certain passages are discernibly riff-driven together with Bonham's powerhouse drumming, as one would expect from the genre's idioms, Sherinian's keys and Hughes' bass are also fairly prominent in the mix with the resultant effect offering a lot more depth than your standard rock/metal tunes of this ilk. This is particularly true for repeated listens where previously latent sonics seem to come to the fore and strike you with the realisation that what you're listening to is actually only generic on a surface level. 'Faithless' is a prime example of this as its mid-tempo groove is infused with layers of instrumentation that create such a sublime atmosphere its euphonic essence flows forth in what sounds like musical simplicity. It's only when the song's revisited that a greater depth to the piece becomes apparent. At least to my ears, anyway. The album, as a whole, contains a good balance between up, mid, and down tempo tracks and with Hughes and Bonamassa sharing lead vocals, along with concomitant progressive subtleties throughout (let us not forget Sherinian's mid-late nineties stint in Dream Theater, of course), '2' is actually a more musically diverse beast than it would initially seem. And just check out the guitar/keyboard harmony arpeggios three minutes into opening number 'The Outsider' for how to do progressive in a subtle manner - totally fitting for the composition yet providing a nice aural twist to the standard rock elements. It just takes a few listens to fully appreciate the depths of '2' but, by fuck, is it worth it when you click with BCC's musical dynamic. Awesome stuff. And beating Chickenfoot to a sophomore album, are they set to steal Satriani and co's supergroup hegemony within the scene? Certainly looks like they're headed that way. Oh wait, I'm not supposed to use the supergroup label am I. Well, let's see how long both these projects last. Looks like BCC are here to stay for a while anyway.
Mascot Records
Review by Mark Holmes
13th June 2011
1) The Outsider
2) Man in the Middle
3) The Battle for Hadrian's Wall
4) Save Me
5) Smokestack Woman
6) Faithless
7) An Ordinary Son
8) I Can See Your Spirit
9) Little Secret
10) Crossfire
11) Cold
"BCC's latest is quality through and through and I predict it will both consolidate and expand their already established reputation as a force to be reckoned with."