To be released on August 21, 2020 (Nuclear Blast Records)
Since 2011, guitarist Zack Anderson and vocalist Elin Larsson have navigated psychedelic blues hard rock band Blues Pills down an international rock and roll journey fueled by a half a dozen singles, a trio of EPs, four acclaimed full-length albums, and a ton of live concerts on their way to patiently building a hugely diverse fanbase. Their hard-working hands-on approach and pure classic hard rock sound have helped Blues Pills win over audiences from sweaty rock and roll crowds to the die-hard loyal metal attendees at the annual Wacken Festival as well as the heads at Nuclear Blast Records, the heavy metal label the band have called home since 2013.
It’s no surprise that the band are rapidly collecting a legion of classic hard rock fans to join in their cause but Blues Pills are determined to enlist fans of other musical genres including followers of groups like their heavier label mates. On their latest release Holy Moly!, Blues Pills make their biggest case yet for hard rock acceptance firing their fuzz guitar infested raw sounds right smack down the middle of a rock and roll target covered with fans of early Black Sabbath as much as devotees to the late great Janis Joplin. Even more impressive is the fact that the band caters to no one. Regardless of the audience, Blues Pills stick to their psychedelic blues rock guns and whether it’s just their refusal to back down or the fact that they craft solid raw rock and roll tunes, what is certain is that Blues Pills have made a habit of winning over concert goers show after show.
Self created within their own countryside recording studio in Närke, Sweden, Holy Moly! is loaded with eleven solid band written tunes all recorded by guitarist Zack Anderson with a little bit of an assist from fellow Swedes Nicolaus Arson and Johan Gustafsson of rock band The Hives and Rovljud Sound‘s Martin Jacobsson. As if those ringers weren’t enough, the mix was handled by Grammy Award-winner Andrew Scheps under the production watch of Zack, Elin, and fellow bandmate André Kvarnström so it should come as no surprise that Holy Moly! delivers sonicly. When your resume includes the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Black Sabbath, and Rival Sons, chances are you kind of know what you’re doing at least a little bit. The match is perfect seeing as Blues Pills have been known to craft some pretty solid tunes in the past and on Holy Moly!, the songs are no less than badass, psychedelic blues rock awesomeness.
This time around, Blues Pills stick to their rock and roll game plan that involves the usual mix of rockers, shakers, soul-stirrers, and heart takers and got the early ball rolling back in March with a video for soul rocking ladies’s anthem “Proud Woman.” Yeah, maybe other Swedish bands like The Hellacopters and previously mentioned rockers The Hives have gone down that ass shaking bass and drums groove path before but Blues Pills deliver it with their own kind of sass due largely in part to Larsson‘s middle of the soul-pop road vocal expression. There’s just something infectious about a tune with a solid bottom end and just enough loose guitar for the vocals to breath with passion that borders on the edge of intoxicating. Larsson‘s definitely got pipes spoon-fed with Aretha Franklin strong woman influence but there’s also no mistaken that she knows how to spit out impassioned vocals with just enough articulation to clearly get her point across. Attitude I think they call it and it’s a requirement regardless of whether your rock and roll is on the mellow end or the smack your head clear off shoulders side and Blue Pills have it in spades.
Earlier this month, Blues Pills dropped the video for their third Holy Moly! single “Kiss My Past Goodbye”, another stand tall attitude rocker that delivers like a modern day “High Road Easy” era Sass Jordan punch to the face but with a bit more edge. While “Proud Woman” oozes attitude, “Kiss My Past Goodbye” arrives packaged with a middle finger and an intentional push. Proof that attitude can be all kinds of sexy but I’d be cautious to tell Larsson that, she just might tear your head off and belt a few raw notes down what’s left but don’t be scared, there’s those other attitude-loaded sides too, the ones filled with some smooth grooves and a little tenderness here and there. But later, first there’s the over the speed limit attack of fast driving rocker “Low Road” (which should nail down fans of Deep Purple MKII) and the heavy blues hard rock of “Dreaming My Life Away”, a romping stop and go number filled with shades of Sabbath and Zeppelin and if THAT’S not enough to frighten you, those last two are just the second and third tracks on Holy Moly!.
If even that’s not enough kicking rock, “Rhythm In The Blood” brings that raw drum heavy, fuzzy garage rock conjuring up visions of late sixties Beat Club performances with crazy psychedelic backgrounds while “Bye Bye Birdy” bitch slaps like a way more bad ass “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Like most of Blues Pills‘ stuff, it’s dirty, its raw, and it’s real but even with all that plastered across half of Holy Moly! we ain’t even close to done yet, we still gots to get through the groovy ass shakers and slow dance numbers.
Now for all of the sleazy rock and glam faithful who proudly support and frequent this website as part of the Sleaze Roxx army, this is the part of the review where I’ll hand out a free pass to get out of class the rest of the way but it would be my suggestion that you give things a shot and hang out just a bit longer. So OK, Holy Moly! might be a bit raw for fans of polished AOR but lovers of gritty hard rock and sleaze just might dig this so if you can try and hang out a bit longer. If anything, your gal might dig the groovy end of this one and those brownie points alone might be worth just a tad more reading material.
It’s not every day a band comes along that can shake it up with a romp of a tune as well as with some tear at your insides soulful blues rock and roll and songs like “California”, “Wish I’d Known”, and “Longest Lasting Friend” dig deep and pull out some of the best slow soul grooves this side of The Faces, Black Crowes, and Alabama Shakes. For a second, you almost got to ask yourself if maybe you’ve heard legendary singer Joe Cocker belt out “California” in a previous life but no, it’s all Blues Pills and if you give it a chance, it’ll make the hair stand up on your arms. Fans of blue guitarist Joe Bonamassa‘s work with singer Beth Hart would be bowled over by “Dust” which delivers that similar blues soul heart smack only with a good bit extra grit and energy and ballad “Song From a Mourning Friend” sucks you in just enough with pretty piano to leave you wide open for when the floor drops out from under you. I may be nostalgic but this is what music used to be like before the days of corporate assembly line money-grabbing music (and I use that term loosely) took over the world. Yeah I’ll take this natural passionate groove over a studio created Euro beat any day.
Now it’s understandable that some might find it a stretch that Blues Pills occasionally swim into the waters here at Sleaze Roxx and that’s cool but at the end of the day, the history of the main music on this site shows lines to many influences including seventies punk, glitter, glam, pop, bubblegum, and even southern rock and yes, even late sixties garage, blues and psychedelic rock. Blues Pills are a creation of many of the same sounds that many different sounding bands on Sleaze Roxx call influences. If anything, the most common influences are a love of raw, attitude filled rock and roll energy and with that in mind, Blues Pills are filled with just as much of those attributes as early Sabbath, Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, and more. This day and age, the music is everywhere to sample so what have you got to lose, give this great release a listen and who knows, you just might unexpectedly find yourself shouting Holy Moly!.
01. Proud Woman
02. Low Road
03. Dreaming My Life Away
05. Rhythm In The Blood
07. Kiss My Past Goodbye
08. Wish I’d Known
09. Bye Bye Birdy
10. Song From A Mourning Dove
11. Longest Lasting Friend
Elin Larsson – vocals, backing vocals
Zack Anderson – guitar
André Kvarnström – drums
Kristoffer Schander – bass
Erik Harrström – piano (4, 10), strings (10)
Rajmund Follman – cello/arrangement
Fredrik Hulthe – viola
Tino Fjeldli – violin
Jesper Lindell – backing vocals
Tom Eriksson – backing vocals
André Kvarnström – backing vocals
Roya Sarvestani – poem (9)
Produced by Zack Anderson, Elin Larsson and André Kvarnström
Recorded and engineered by Zack Anderson
Assistant engineers: Johan Gustafsson and Martin Jacobson
Mixed by Andrew Scheps
Mastered by Brian Lucey
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, July 2020
Blues Pills‘ “Kiss My Past Goodbye” video:
Blues Pills‘ “Low Road” video:
Blues Pills‘ “Proud Woman” video: