And now for something completely different. Blackshine is an underground Swedish act sporting an interesting blend of thrash and hard rock. Though I’ve seen them refered to as “death n’ roll,” I never found that to be an apt descriptor. Their sound is like a raucous blend of First Wave Bay Area thrash, Motorhead, Sentenced, a wee bit of Wolverine Blues-era Entombed and a smattering of stoner/biker rock. While past albums like Soulless and Proud and Lifeblood had muscle and heft aplenty, there was a hard rock flair and swagger to the songs and the choruses could be deceptively earwormy (check out “Sacrifice” or “Choked With feathers” for good examples). What really appealed to me about them was their rowdy, raw vibe and their piss and vinegar attitude. After a layoff of six and a half years, I had pretty much written them off, but here they are back again with Soul Confusion. While the core sound remains intact, this is a much harder, heavier collection of songs and it seems something got their blood up over their extended hiatus (perhaps the extended hiatus). While the extra dose of heaviness comes at the expense of some immediate catchiness, which I found initially off-putting, once the album marinated awhile, more of their old charm emerged and the songs opened up a lot. This is a very riffy, guitar-driven affair with a lot of forward momentum, aggression and balls, but the hooks are still there just under the surface, waiting to snag flesh. It might not be up to the standards of the earlier stuff, but I can never refuse a platter full of hard-driving, rifftastic thrash rock (I’m not made of stone, after all).
For whatever reason, Blackshine opts not to lead with their best punches (ring rust from the aforementioned hiatus?) and while opener “Solid Redemption” and the title track are decent and listenable examples of their speedy rock replete with nice riffs and reminiscent of Dawnbringer‘s Nucleus material, neither shows what they are fully capable of doing. Things improve with “Eternal Cold,” which incorporates more feeling, enormous riffing and a more memorable refrain. Even better is “Bloodred Silence,” which has impassioned vocals and riffs that veer from classic thrash into black metal and the combination makes it a standout.
Other high points come with “The Inferior” which borrows from Troublegum era Therapy for an emotionally charged and catchy chorus amid the crunching riffage; the more traditional Blackshine style of “The Reaper” mixed with In Flames riffs and melodies; the Motorhead on Viagra modality of “Life in Sin” and the stomping, punching riffs and venom throughout “Dead Blackened Hole” (which brings back the melo-death guitar heroics for some bonus fun).
None of the songs are bad, but some are average in terms of memorability and impact (“Solid Redemption,” the title track and “Holy Sin”). A bigger issue is the lack of diversity tempo-wise. Because of this, things start to sound overly similar after a while and sometimes the songs bleed together. Some occasional tempo shifts might have been a nice touch just to break things up.
The Blackshine sound relies heavily on the propulsive riffs churned out by Albine Andersson and Anders Strokirk, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more guitar-driven album out there. Thankfully, they’ve done a fine job of throwing about a million riffs at the listener and many of them are quite good. Every song is powered along by a collection of ass-kicking leads and they add a bunch of extras every chance they get. From a pure riff-based perspective, this is by far their finest hour, though from a song writing one, it isn’t. They impress as they explore different genres and they clearly have chops.
Almost as important as the riffs are the raspy vocals of Strokirk. Most of the time he sounds like a young, exuberant version of Lemmy, but he also has elements of James Rota (Fireball Ministry) and even a bit of Biohazard‘s Evan Seinfield in his holler and roar. His throaty bellow is a riot and he provides a lot of the testosterone that makes these guys so much fun. Lastly, the rhythm section of bassist Fred Holmberg and new drummer Martin Karlsson is tight as fuck, and they rumble and crash along with precision throughout.
While I prefer their earlier releases, I like the intensity and conviction evident on Soul Confusion. I just wish they managed to take the hook factor from past material and cram it in with all the newfound heaviness. This is definitely something to check out if you hanker for something heavy and rockin’ or you want to hear a slightly different take on thrash (how often do you hear that?). No more long vacations for you guys, understood? Slackers.