August Album of the Month
There are times when rock n roll needs to stand up to testify – and there are times when rock needs to offer escapism. After the dark months we have all been through, the new Thundermother album offers the latter, a rich welcoming oasis where you can party, have fun and be reminded of rock music’s enduring power to bring people together.
‘Heat Wave’ is the second album from the new-look Thundermother and the second time the band has bagged ‘Album of the Month’ with Great Music Stories. Various album tracks from the last release became firm listener favourites and – for this new release – the first two singles have, between them, featured in the week’s Top 10 played tracks on four separate weeks.
Recorded in just three-weeks, it is the chemistry between the recently-formed band members that defines the character of what you hear. The album smiles with the warm confidence of a band that gets on, that really know how to play together and to how to fully utilise each other’s strengths. The music gives a platform for the vocal to really shine, but all the new band members leave their mark on this fine album. It is a huge achievement for guitarist Filippa Nässil to have re-formed an entirely new band around her: on this album it sounds like they’ve been playing together for years on end – and you couldn’t really entertain the idea of the band sounding any other way.
Like great albums, this body of work needs to be enjoyed as an album rather than as individual tracks. ‘Heat Wave’ isn’t taking rock somewhere new or avant-garde: It’s unashamedly classic rock with no shortage of AC/DC-inspired vibes, but what makes the album work is the quality behind the songwriting and the production. As evidenced by the band’s set for our recent radio festival, this is a band that can really play, with a symbiosis that makes their music-making seem effortless. It’s the quality that shines through, coupled with a tangible sense of enjoyment – and crowned by the most impressive female rock vocalist on the scene today.
All the songs on this album could be singles and that says a lot about the album as a whole.
The opening four songs set the mood with immediate impact. ‘Loud and Alive’ opens the album at high octane-pace – riff-laden classic rock, with crisp production and soaring vocals. The album is up and running in less than two minutes. ‘Dog for Hell’ and ‘Back in 76’ are two of a number of album tracks with big, catchy chorus lines – classic call-and-response singalong rockers. The opening three tracks are followed by ‘Into The Mud’ that ups the tempo with a frenetic pace and urgency. All these songs are built for the stage, its music to party to, to work yourself into a rock frenzy to with the volume turned up high. This is classic rock done well – music that makes you feel good and music to enjoy together. And no better time than the current era for rock n roll to excite, to inspire and to unite.
The title track ‘Heat Wave’ is more melodic, radio-friendly, with a bluesy-soulful vibe to the verses, counterpointed by the power rock chorus lines and riffs.
The album’s second single ‘Sleep’ brings in the album’s ballad, and this is where Thundermother leave other banging bands behind in the rear-view mirror. Great ballads have always been a keystone of the classic rock genre – the many classic hits we all know and can sing along to word-perfect (when drunk) is testimony to that. As a power ballad, ‘Sleep’ is right up there with the best of them. With tenderness, orchestral flourishes and a great guitar solo, this is exactly the kind of song that can get hard rock back on the mainstream airwaves. In terms of composition, structure and tone it’s a great song. And at the end of the day it’s all about the song. Always has been, always will be.
‘Driving in Style’ is up next, the album’s first single and the song that marked the band’s return. It works as an excellent bridge between the last and the new album.
‘Free Ourselves’ is an interesting song with some political commentary and it’s followed by ‘Mexico’ which brings in southern rock flavour and a nice bluesy swagger. For this one it’s the vocal performance that lifts the song out of the ordinary with a hint of humour and drama.
‘Purple Sky’ completes the mid-section of the album with a contemporary feel: in places a pop song with a bit of soul, in places very 70s classic rock – this one has an interesting mix of textures.
Like a gig, the final run of tracks pick up the pace as the album builds up to the big rocking finale – a band that has captured the mood, the sound and the attitude of music that could fill stadiums. ‘Ghosts’ packs the classic rock-inspired riffs and intensity. ‘Somebody Love Me’ brings back the edge and the bite and the album finishes with ‘Bad Habits’ – and here, despite the girl’s best efforts to be bad-ass, the album closer is eminently likeable, party rock n roll. It’s positive, energetic and uplifting.
This is an album to listen to loud – and listening to it is almost as exhausting as going to a show. In the non-gig age, this is the perfect album to give you that feel of a great live rock n roll performance: The primal connection from the riffs, the sing-along interaction, the feel-good factor of just having fun.
This album doesn’t take rock n roll, as an art form, somewhere new. It’s as classic rock as it gets, but it’s the quality and classy swagger of the execution that stands it apart from others. Some bands have just got it.
A newly formed band? From this album you would think the girls had been in a band together for years – and it’s now hard to imagine Thundermother sounding any other way. ‘Heat Wave’ conveys the sound, the talent and the confidence of a band going all the way to the top – and on their own terms.
Heat Wave is released on 31 July on AFM Records
Thundermother are: Filippa Nässil (Guitar), Guernica Mancini (Vocals), Emlee Johansson (Drums), Majsan Lindberg (Bass)
Listen again: 2018 interview from a train somewhere in Sweden