Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy (Napalm Records)Wednesday, 8th October 2014
One of the first bands of the modern era to frequent the now ever-hip retro-rock boon, Norway’s Audrey Horne are capable of poking holes in the argument that bands of this variety must look and act the part. Perhaps it is the band’s no-frills presentation, coupled with their varied background, one that has seen members (past and present) do time in the likes of Enslaved and Gorgoroth, all the way to more the like-minded Sahg. Never the matter, for Audrey Horne’s growth is hard to ignore on Pure Heavy, which in spite of its clichéd title, has about a half-dozen worthy FM radio hard rock hooks to Thin Lizzy-down to.
Pure Heavy’s 2013 predecessor Youngblood took a similar approach in its upholding of big choruses and firm, somewhat melodic riffing. So indeed Pure Heavy barely scrapes by as a metal album, given today’s current climate where far less heavy and rocking bands are included in our lovely scene, Pure Heavy has plenty of muscle to go around. However, the album is far less about the riff ideas of Enslaved lead axeman Arve Isdal and his counterpart, Thomas Tofthagen. Rather, vocalist Toschie (real name: Torkjell Rod) is the man of the hour. His chorus ideas – full and voluminous, ready to fill (would-be) arenas – are magnificent in spots, like on the Phil Lynott-approved “Out of the City,” and “Volcano Girl,” where his crisp, clean tone carries marvelous pitch and attitude.
Indeed a much more hook-based, melody-driven, and big-stage ready alternative to whatever the alternative is in retro rock at the moment, Pure Heavy should be Audrey Horne’s touchstone body of work for the time being. Lest we forget the guys are Norwegian, which as per the usual, gives them a broader sense of individuality and character, for running with the herd is rather un-hip. Someone tell that to the rest of the retro gang.