Diablo Blvd – Follow the Deadlights (Nuclear Blast)Tuesday, 20th January 2015
It’s interesting to engage in albums that have distinct American heavy metal qualities under the craftsmanship of non-American musicians. Take Antwerp, Belgian quintet Diablo Blvd. who have been together since 2005 and finally gained a worldwide label deal for the release of their third album Follow the Deadlights that originally hit the streets last year domestically. After numerous passes through the recesses of my brain and ear matter, these 10 songs possess a lot of the Southern groove swagger meets semi-modern rock punch that put 90’s era Corrosion of Conformity on their major label ascent and on par with work from Sweden’s Mustasch.
You can feel the propulsive thump and building atmosphere from drummer Kris Martens give way to the dual axe crunch of Dave Hubrechts and Andries Beckers in the opening sequence of “Beyond the Veil” – the verses gaining dynamic appeal because of their odd clean strumming measures. Picking Jay Ruston and Paul Logus to handle the mixing and mastering adds to more of that American sonic perspective, as you can expect a snare snap that shatters bones, a thick (and sick) down-tuned guitar tone, plus a bass that holds Southern swagger and Life of Agony-like charm. Occasionally veering into faster/heavier pastures through the flashy double bass meets Middle Eastern riff chug for “Get Up 9” or culturally connecting in a Sabbath meets Machine Head manner on “Fear Is For the Enemy”, the pacing of the record gives the listener all sides of Diablo Blvd. in terms of catchy hooks, focused chord combinations, and excellent execution in tight 4-5 minute constructs.
Besides being a well-known Belgian comedian, vocalist Alex Agnew shines throughout as his range is tailor made to be broadcast loud and clear through car stereos or stages built for tens of thousands. Qualities that come to mind include Keith Caputo, Ralf Gyllenhammar (Mustasch), and possibly a little bit of that Scott Weiland propensity to ascend to high heaven with soul and vibrato notes sprinkled about. The cruising “Peace Won by War” and sleazier “Son of Cain” two prime examples of his wide array of feelings the man can express as if naturally hitting the microphone after minimal warm up exercises.
Follow the Deadlights could be a surprise gem for some in the heavy metal community – while others may think this is too close to American commercial rock radio for their liking. Place me more in the former category, as I’d much rather take in Diablo Blvd. than all the corporate ideas of what ‘heavy music’ should be 20 years ago.