As one of those obnoxious feminists, it’s always bugged me how much of a boys’ club the metal scene can be. It’s much less so among the fans, for sure, but be honest with yourself: excluding the legions of cut-rate symphonic metal acts and battalions of woman-fronted acts in other subgenres, how many prominent non-vocalist musicians can you name of the top of your head that are women? So any time I find a band with women, or better yet, one that’s all women, that’s a sure way to perk my ears for a listen or three. Even better is what we have here; Rock Goddess is a band from back in the original NWOBHM era. Unfortunately, their youth at the time appears to have gotten them chewed up and spit out by label shenanigans (although founding bassist Tracy Lamb1 did go on to a decent stint in Girlschool). Now, over 30 years after their last album and after many attempts at past reunions, they’re back with the original lineup, ready to set the world on fire with an old-school heavy metal sound garnished with a glam rock flourish.2 Do they still have the chops to take the bull by the horns, or has the long time away from the studio (albeit not the stage, reportedly) dulled their edge too much?
Not really. The meat of the album is respectable enough in isolation, with the more aggressive material like “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right” or “Why Do We Never Learn” contrast nicely with the tracks between and around them like the Sweet-meets-Maiden-esque religion call-out “Calling to Space,” but it take a bit to get there. This is a particular problem given the brisk 35-minute runtime. Still, the core of the band’s sound, as on their solid debut record,3 suits relationship songs well, and the subsequent decades have matured this further; a track worth noting in this regard is album closer “Drive Me Away,” although it does repeat elements of itself a bit too much.
Unfortunately, this repetition problem permeates much of the album, with the moody “Obsessed” and warmly romantic “Flying to See You” hitting hardest after “Are You Ready?” opens the record. Said opener is Rock Goddess’ attempt at a “Back in Black” knockoff, a surging tune to kick off an album and announce a return to form that… doesn’t work. It’s far too flaccid and repetitive to have the punch it’s attempting to provide, and followed as it is by “Obsessed,” hamstrings the album’s momentum. It never really recovers, stuttering through the remainder of the runtime on fumes.
This is all very unfortunate, as all three ladies here offer excellent performances despite the weak material. Jody Turner, despite her apparent difficulties recapturing her songwriting inspiration, slays on the mic, alternately snarly and warm, with excellent vocal fry roughening up the whole performance. Her guitar work is similarly skilled, with a number of deft solos on display. Her younger sister Julie similarly rules the kit with notably upped game relative to their old material. The real star is Lamb, though; her bass work is warm, rich and high in the mix as it deserves, evidencing her continued work after leaving Rock Goddess in her youth. She exited the band again late last year, after This Time wrapped recording; here’s hoping newcomer Jenny Lane can inject some new energy while she’s filling Lamb’s shoes.
This Time is an album I tried very hard to like, but it’s just lacking in substance to a degree I cannot overlook. As noted, they have a new bassist that appears to be a youngster; hopefully she can help bring some new life to Rock Goddess. They rather need it.