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Proclaimed to be "the new Queens of Rock" by renowned producer Gil Norton (who took on production duties for their debut album, 'Ride of Your Life'), JOANovARC are back, three years later, with their sophomore full-length offering. Eponymously titled, it seems this serves as an assertive and self-assured statement of intent, of a band who've firmly found their feet. The evidence is in the eleven songs on what is a well-produced, zero filler, 39 minutes of bold and confidently delivered, no-bullshit compositions. As bold and fearlessly confident as the image of their namesake adorning the front cover. A battle cry for the ensuing rock assault that greeted my ears upon first spinning this disc.

It's apparent that JOANovARC's confidence extends to their evidently loyal and trusting fanbase, as the album was funded by donations made through a PledgeMusic campaign. An impressive 266% of their goal was reached... funds which I sincerely hope they received in their entirety, following Pledge's seemingly underhand dealings experienced by all too many artists in recent months. And while Norton might not have returned as knob twiddler for this second recorded chapter in JOANovARC's journey, it's been very nicely co-produced by the band themselves alongside Andy Hodgson. And a perfectly balanced mix and fine mastering job by Wayne Proctor and Steve Wright. But, the album, at least on the first few spins, got off to a somewhat underwhelming start for me...

The first song, 'Burning', didn't actually convince me... at first. The instrumentation on this opener is great, as are bassist Sam Walker's vocals; however, the vocal lines throughout the track are somewhat unadventurous and two-dimensional. Apart from sporadic flourishes, the vocal line is always teasing to develop into more melodically engaging refrains, but.... well, refrains from doing so. So, I was not hooked from the start, I have to say. But second track, 'Waiting For', delivers precisely what I was waiting for in the first, and the album goes from strength to strength from thereon. With great vocal lines to boot! And, you know what? Repeated listens to 'Burning' and the uninventive vocal line issue bothers me less and less; a corollary of diminishing expectations, I guess. So, on the whole, what we have are a ton of decades-old classic rock idioms, all given a twenty first century polish, and injected with a healthy dose of raw rocking energy. And occasionally more contemplatively reflective and introspective moments ('When We Were Young' and 'Go Home').

I feel I need to add that while quotes on promotional materials from the likes of the legend and polymath that is Bruce Dickinson ("These girls can shred") will indubitably garner significant attention for these ladies, I'm not sure what definition of "shred" Bruce has appropriated here. There are some widdly fretboard shenanigans during some passages of music and competent musicianship throughout, but it's a long, long way from the traditionally considered meaning of the term within the realm of music. There's no virtuosic shredding to be heard here, so don't let Mr. Dickinson's quote (taken out of context, perhaps?) mislead you. What I will say, though, is that "these girls can rock". Bigtime. Check it out for yourself with this rather great second album.
Holier Than Thou Records
Review by Mark Holmes
31st May 2019
1) Burning
2) Waiting For
3) Down By The River
4) People Coming Up
5) Take It Out
6) When We Were Young
7) Try It On
8) Jane
9) This Way
10) Slipping Away
11) Go Home
"As bold and fearlessly confident as the image of their namesake adorning the front cover. A battle cry for the ensuing rock assault..."