Thundermother: ‘Black and Gold’
BLACK AND GOLD
Released on August 19, 2022 (AFM Records)
One of my most anticipated album releases for 2022 was definitely Thundermother‘s latest salvo, which came under the name Black and Gold. Why you may ask? Well for starters, Thundermother‘s previous studio album Heat Wave was my #1 selection for album of the year in 2020. Unlike many other bands that have released records in 2022, my expectations for Thundermother‘s fifth studio album were sky high. The Swedish rockers have always released quality albums, which seemingly get better and better each time, so it’s natural to expect greatness rather than mediocrity from them. Having lead vocalist Guernica Mancini and drummer Emlee Johansson in the line-up definitely seems to have taken Thundermother to a higher level for their last two albums — the self-titled one (2018) and Heat Wave (2020). As seems to be the norm for Thundermother for the last few albums, there has been yet another change at the bass position as Mona Lindgren replaced Majsan Lindberg, and the former is listed as the bassist on Black and Gold. That being said, it appears that Lindgren didn’t get to participate in writing the songs for the album since she didn’t receive any kind of co-writing credits.
Thundermother come out of the gate swinging on Black and Gold with a trio of rockers — “Light in The Sky”, “Black And Gold” and “Raise Your Hands” — which will have you quickly singing along to the choruses and “oh oh oh” sections. While there is no doubt that Nässil is a talented guitarist and songwriter, she doesn’t try to steal the show on the album unlike some other guitarists you may know of. She is more of an Angus Young type where she delivers the goods to make the songs great and confines her brilliance to some cool guitar riffs and solos. My favorite guitar solo — hands down — on Black and Gold is the one for “Watch Out” which might remind you a certain other brilliant guitarist who never tried to overshadow the songs with his guitar playing. I am talking about the Spaceman — Ace Frehley. Nässil‘s guitar solo on “Watch Out” reminds me every time of that signature Ace Frehley guitar sound.
Thundermother‘s not so secret weapon continues to shine on Black and Gold and this time, I am talking about the group’s sensational lead vocalist Guernica Mancini. I am sure that she could take just about any song and take it to the next level, from mediocre to alright, from good to great. Having a singer as talented as Mancini affords a lot of latitude on the songwriting as the female vocalist can take any line in a song and make a statement out of it with her powerful voice. I love when a lead vocalist’s singing makes me feel that they are telling me a story on each song and that’s what I get listening to Mancini on Black and Gold. There is no question in my mind that Mancini is one of the greatest vocalists out there at this time. I see many similarities to what happened with Thundermother (when they switched from Clare Cunningham after two albums to Mancini) to what occurred with Iron Maiden when they replaced Paul Di’Anno with Bruce Dickinson. Iron Maiden’s songs definitely went up quite a few notches with Dickinson in the line-up and the same can be said for Thundermother now that Mancini is in the band.
I already mentioned that my expectations were sky high for Thundermother‘s follow up the sublime Heat Wave and those expectations meant that I expected that each and every track on Black and Gold, would be a very good to great track. For the most part, Thundermother were able to achieve that but there are a few tracks that unfortunately missed the mark. I am not sure why but the slower tracks on Black and Gold simply seem to miss that magic “je ne sais quoi” that the faster paced tracks such as “Light In The Sky”, “Watch Out” and “Looks No Hooks” provide. The first and likely only track that I skip virtually each time is the slower paced “Hot Mess.” I could come up with all sorts of witty (at least to me) comments about the track based on the song title but I will contain myself in that regard. Needless to say, “Hot Mess” is an average track with no real edge to it.
Luckily, Thundermother turn it up a notch with the next song “Wasted” and then comes what will likely be one of their obligatory concert anthems for the rest of their musical career — “Watch Out.” Anytime a band that has already released five studio albums can come up with a stand out track that will most likely be in its live setlist for the remainder of its career, I think that you have to look at the album from where the song originates from as a success. For example, the title track for AC/DC‘s album For Those About To Rock remains an all-time classic but can you really name two more songs off that record? Nevertheless, For Those About To Rock remains a solid album for the Aussie legends on the strength of the title track. That being said, while Black And Gold contains that one killer song (“Watch Out”), about 75% of the album is really good. I find that Thundermother do lose a steam at the end of Black and Gold with “Stratosphere” (which is an “alright” track) and the slower almost dull “Borrowed Time.”
While I have been a little bit hard sometimes on Thundermother in this review, make no mistake about it. This is one of the best albums of the year. Thundermother have delivered some absolutely stellar songs on Black and Gold (well, at least for 75% of the album) and it’s a worthy follow up to 2020’s Heat Wave. I do question some of the video singles from the album but it seems that Thundermother have tried to cast a wide net with the video singles from the fast paced “Watch Out” to the poppier “I Don’t Know You” to the slower (and worse track on the album) “Hot Mess.” If you’re not impressed with some of the video singles, fare not as there are some way better songs on Black and Gold that you can discover once you listen / get the album (which any self-respecting Sleaze Roxx reader should really do).
01. Light In The Sky
02. Black And Gold
03. Raise Your Hands
04. Hot Mess
06. Watch Out
07. I Don’t Know You
08. Looks No Hooks
09. Loud and Free
10. Try With Love
12. Borrowed Time
Guernica Mancini – vocals
Filippa Nässil – guitars
Emlee Johansson – drums
Mona Lindgren – bass
Produced, mixed and mastered by Søren Andersen
Sound engineered by Willem Bleeker
Co-vocal production by Palle Hammarlund
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, October 2022
Thundermother‘s “Watch Out” video:
Thundermother‘s “I Don’t Know You” video:
Thundermother‘s “Hot Mess” lyric video:
Thundermother‘s “Loud And Free” video: