BLACK OAK COUNTY
THEATRE OF THE MIND
To be released on April 26, 2019 (Mighty Music)
Back in late 2016, I was introduced to Black Oak County from Esbjerg, Denmark. Their self-titled album really impressed me as “a killer modern rock album that drives into your head and stays there like a bad infection. The more I listen, the more I want to hear it again.” This new album, Theatre of the Mind, works as an extension of that first effort with some slight differences.
What is immediately obvious is the vocal change. The original singer chose to depart, and after looking at several options, they decided on existing bassist René Hjelm to “helm” the band (pardon the weak pun). Hjelm does not, to me, carry the same aggressive sound of his predecessor, but then Black Oak County have seemed to adjust their own sound as well. I remember back in 2016 asking guitarist Jack Svendsen about how the band was influenced by Black Stone Cherry, and he agreed. I would say that as Black Stone Cherry has evolved, so has Black Oak County.
The opening track “Watch Your Back” has got an anger to it alongside a powerful guitar. I’m pretty into this as a modern rock track to be sure. There is a hint of familiarity to “Just Another Psycho” that leads to early 2000s, like maybe Beautiful Creatures. “My Chance To Change” continues the 2000s sound, and I’m not high on it. There’s a melodic pop element and I’ll pass. On the other hand, “Since You’ve Been Gone” is a straight forward modern rock tune featuring some solid vocals and a banging guitar line. It has my foot pounding every time I hear it. “Pretty Pistol” has been on YouTube for months now and seems to be what Black Oak County want to be their signature song. For Theatre Of The Mind, it may just define the album, and I won’t dispute that. I will say that “Sycophantic” may be a better song overall, if not quite as memorable. “Wasted Life” and “I Know You’re Lonely” are alright, mid-tempo narratives rather than songs with immediate impact. “Stick To My Guns” and “Theatre Of The Mind” are very much what I expected based on the band’s first album — heavy, hard, and aggressive.
There was something about this band that hooked me back in 2016, particularly their track “Someone Else”. Based on that, I’ve been waiting for their sophomore effort. I get that the new singer appears to have imparted a new sensibility on Black Oak County, and it’s a good album, although I can’t shake the impact of their first release.
01. Watch Your Back
02. Just Another Psycho
03. My Change To Change
04. Since You’ve Been Gone
05. Pretty Pistol
07. Wasted Life
08. I Know You’re Lonely
09. Stick To My Guns
10. Theatre Of The Mind
Jack Svendsen – guitar
René Hjelm – bass, vocals
Mike Svendsen – drums
Reviewed by Metal Mike for Sleaze Roxx, February 2019
Black Oak County’s “Pretty Pistol” video:
“Pretty Pistol” is out 24/8-18 worldwide through Mighty Music on all digital sites. Video – Produced, filmed and edited by Rasmus Alenkær/ RaPix (www.rapix.o…