Norwegian hard rock with a huge retro edge? Named after a character from the ultra weird Twin Peaks series? Done by members of Enslaved and Sahg no less? Count me in! For those who missed the last three albums by this interesting cvlt unit, Audrey Horne blended elements of Faith No More, Stone Temple Pilots and Entwine to create a hyper-addictive sound with some genuinely great song writing chops. These skills were best displayed on their self-titled 2010 opus (AMG’s review of which caused me to discover this here site for the very first time). With Arve Isdal (Ice Dale) of Enslaved fame rejoining Thomas Tofthagen of Sahg for Youngblood, the Faith No More oddness is jettisoned along with most of the old influences in favor a rich, hooky tuneage with tons of retro 70s and 80s influences. While there’s plenty of carry-over from the great 2010 album (which you need to get), this one is even better and serves up one slobberknocker of excellence after another, easily making it the best pure rock album I’ve heard in years. As they tear through some stellar material, they throw plenty of nods to Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and even Van Halen and Foreigner. All the while keeping the energy level sky-high and the hook factor set to liquefy. I’m frankly shocked just how good this thing is, despite one of the worst album covers of all time!
Making sure you get with the program toot sweet, opener “Redemption Blues” is a tremendous example of straight-up, in-your-face rock. Pumping riffs; painfully cool vocals somewhere between Scott Weiland, Joe Walsh and Ozzy; pounding drums and a precision ear for dropping the right note at exactly the right time to achieve maximum catchiness. Its raucous stuff with tons of attitude and better still, it has Iron Maiden-style galloping riffs and guitar harmonies permeating the whole enchilada. The chorus is a joy and this is undoubtedly the sound of a band firing on every fucking cylinder possible. They keep up the über quality with the pure rock fury of “Straight Into Your Grave,” which smokes from start to finish and has a great syncopated clap effect leading into a fun little Lemmy-esque bass run that screams stadium rock, cheap beer and denim vests.
The goods keep coming fast and furious and every song is a rock gem of note. The title track has a slick, late 70s/early 80s rock swagger, amusing lyrics and another big, winning chorus (the Thin Lizzy inspired guitar harmonies and well placed Hammond organ don’t hurt at all either). “There Goes a Lady” channels Joe Walsh‘s style of laid back, slacker rock, but also has an undercurrent of Deep Purple riffing with just a trace of Foreigner scattered throughout the mix. One of the biggest wins is “The Open Sea,” which starts like something off a Roger Waters album before lurching into a dynamic rock juggernaut somewhere between Led Zeppelin and Monster Magnet. It has a huge sound and mood, great vocals and works to perfection from go to stop. Lastly, “This Ends Here” is a sequel to the excellent “Bridges and Anchors” off the 2010 platter, and its as good, with more Maiden-approved gallop and trilling leads which give the song balls of steel and a fist of lead. The chorus is another triumph and I couldn’t ask, nor expect more catchy, engaging writing.
While this material works on every level, one of the big appeals for me is the vocal work of Toschie. Though he’s a relative unknown in the music world, he was born to sing, dirty, greasy rock like this and he demonstrates surprising versatility as he adapts to the mood and style of some pretty diverse material. He has that “it factor” a rock singer needs and you get that intrinsic sense of attitude and coolness from his delivery. The guitar-work from Ice Dale and Tofthagen will surprise many because it’s so good and so dead-on for the style and yet, such a huge departure from their “day jobs.” They craft a mind-blowing assortment of killer rock riffs and really show how rock should be done. The fact they work various metal influences into the blueprint is a big bonus and pretty much every song has its great moments in axe work.
I really have no gripes about this awesome slice of good time fun, apart from that dayglow abortion of a cover. If forced to pick something else, I guess “Show and Tell” isn’t up to the high standards of the surrounding material. Still, it’s a fine song and it fits well with the others. That’s it folks, that’s all I can come up with!
Youngblood is as close to a 5.0 as I’ve heard in a while and I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve spun this thing from start to finish in the past few weeks. I know its been interfering with my other listening duties because I just can’t turn the fucker off! If you like hard rock with an edge, done by experts, this is a MUST hear. While you’re at it, get their last album too. You’ll be thanking me when you do. Long live (Norwegian) rock and roll!!