28 June 2012

[Review] Nightstalker - Dead Rock Commandos

I find it completely unnecessary to introduce Nightstalker since they're one of the most well-known Greek bands and definitely the oldest one with more than 20 years of  heaviness on their back. I would simply describe them as the godfathers of Greek heavy/stoner rock scene. So three years after their previous album are back with their newest effort titled "Dead Rock Commandos" released by Small Stone Records.

Honestly they disappointed me a lot with their previous album "Superfreak". It wasn't what I wanted or even expected to hear by 'Stalker. Their 2004 album "Just A Burn" was for a lot of people what "Powertrip" for Monster Magnet. Taking in consideration that I am a big fan of Use, Side FX and Ritual it's easy to understand my disappointment.

So when "Dead Rock Commandos" took its place in my player I was skeptical in what I was about to experience. Fourty minutes later when the first listen was over, nothing had changed in my head. But never mind me and let's take an objective look inside the album.

First of all "Dead Rock Commandos" has nothing to do with "Superfreak". In their previous album production was over-polished (almost MTV-ish) and the tracks were too pop-y at least for my taste. In "Dead Rock Commandos" they made a step back to the basics using a more raw, straight-forward and why not rock 'n' roll production. And that was a right move. This more straight-forward attitude is reflected in their compositions too. The songs are "simpler", they don't lack of groove neither good, heavy riffs and they're having a great amount of passion and soul.

"Dead Rock Commandos" is catchy. Very catchy. Either you'll like it or not, if you give it a listen at least one song will stuck in your head and you'll croon it for hours. Songs are moving more in their Just A Burn era and they're definitely Nightstalkerish. Generally all 10 songs follow the successful Nightstalker recipe, which makes total sense since through the years this is what gave them their reputation and established their name in the heavy rock scenery.

"Dead Rock Commandos" opens with "Go Get Some", a powerful tune that gets you right away in album's spirit. "Soma" is perhaps the catchiest thing I've heard for a long time now. A rock hit, capable of starting a fire on a dance floor. The same applies for the same-titled "Dead Rock Commandos". "One Million Promises" is another up-tempo, straight-forward tune; easily could have been a hidden track from "Just A Burn" while "Children Of The Sun" shows us that they haven't forget their psych side. Slow, groovy with a slight stroke of psychedelia making it my favorite track (along with "Back To Dirt").

In "Keystone" they made a smart move by adding some cool keys in it. But I'm thinking how a track like this or some other tracks/moments of the album are going to be performed live on stage. Since they have one guitarist, no key-player or even somebody responsible for the effects, the songs are going to sound quite different live, something that will work against them.

And since we're talking about gigs, it's time for them to make a step and play a couple of gigs outside of Greece or take part in a fest somewhere in Europe. It's something they had to do a long time ago but - maybe - it's never late, all the more now with Smallstone Records behind them. I completely understand and respect that maybe they don't want to or it's a hard thing to do. But since they're considered as one of the best/biggest Greek heavy bands, I can't see the reasons preventing them of making this move. It's good to headline gigs in your own country but it's even better to play somewhere else addressing to a bigger, new crowd and managing to gain their love and respect.

Finally I have to highlight the excellent guitar work in "Rockaine" which puts it up as one of the album's strongest moments. "Dead Rock Commandos" ending track "The Underdog" is the perfect final touch for.

Overall and by putting my personal taste aside "Dead Rock Commandos" is a good, quality album full of riffs and energy that a lot of younger bands would be jealous of (or possibly lack of). And in case you're a Stalker fan, it's a top notch release which you're going to enjoy again and again until the end of times. 

Now if you ask my big fat opinion... I liked it much more than their previous one and it really exceeded my expectations. It isn't what I wanted to hear but at least is better than I anticipated. It isn't even approaching what they did in "Use" (and I wonder how some people found similarities) and it's hard to compare it with "Just A Burn" as well. I found it quite flat and in moments it's like they're over-trying in creating something catchy, leading to more "mainstream", contemporary paths. This is not good or bad by its nature but depends on the perspective you're looking at it. Yes you can't expect from a successful band to make a breakthrough or start experimenting. This is the route they chose to take and their fans obviously love it but to put it simply, it's just not working for me. I surely enjoyed a couple of album's tunes but "Dead Rock Commandos" in its whole left me unimpressed and wondering if they're still leading the Greek Heavy Rock vanguard.

In conclusion, I'm sure many of you will enjoy "Dead Rock Commandos". It's having all the things that Nightstalker stands for. A little more patience until the end of August when it's going to be released... 

Written By Thanos

01. Go Get Some
02. Soma
03. Dead Rock Commandos
04. One Million Broken Promises
05. Children Of The Sun
06. Back To Dirt
07. Keystone
08. Rockaine
09. The Boogieman Plan
10. The Underdog

You can currently buy "Dead Rock Commandos" in digital form from Itunes
For physical needs, it's going to be released by Small Stone Records on 28th of August


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