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Blackbird Hill – Embers in the Dark Review

Grungy anthemic stoner rock duo making more noise than a four piece!

What does Blackbird Hill sound like?

Crunchy stoner rock with grungy blues edges.

The review of Blackbird Hill – Embers in the Dark

Following up on their 2020 debut ‘Razzle Dazzle’, French duo Blackbird Hill have spent the pandemic bringing their baritone guitar down a notch. When you are a duo making rock, it means your guitar (or bass) has to channel both sides of the spectrum – weight and melody. For ‘Embers in the Dark’ this meant lower tuning and bigger amps. The duo wanted a bigger, sludgier and a more gravelly sound. That’s exactly what the listeners get.

Blackbird Hill – photo by Antoine Thomas

When I listen to ‘Embers in the Dark’ I am immediately taken back to my 90’s MTV rock era heyday as a teenager. Songs like ‘Flatline’ evoke the very best of that era. Big riffs. Crunchy guitars. An in-studio echo to the drums and vocals as if they’ve been lifted from a live session. The best way I can describe the rock Blackbird Hill creates is Syd Arthur meets Soundgarden on an American road trip. There is an element of old-school chugging rock to the riffs but they are anthemic and loud. For instance ‘Beat the Retreat’ reminds me of Soundgarden’s ‘The Day I Tried to Live’ as it has the same off-kilter mid-riff slide. Blackbird Hill gives it a T-Rex/Thin Lizzy high octave solo edge though so it sounds very different and like grunge does 70’s rock.

Many songs have transitions in and out of the grungier sludgier side of their rock though. ‘Black Feathers’ is quaint and folksy until the sledgehammer of a power chord slams you in the face. The use of volume is a fun production twist here too. ‘The Masquerade’ sounds like a Stone Temple Pilots staple. The glitchy and spasmodic nature of ‘Grapevines’ verse reminds me of Skeleton Key and the kitchen sink percussive approach here solidifies that feeling perfectly too. The dreamy beauty of ‘The Colder The Better’ is like a Green Day ballad until it fires into the buzzsaw guitar chaos of its final third. ‘Keep Up Until It Bleeds’ is a dusty depression that Emma Ruth Rundle would be proud of. What I’m saying here by name-dropping so many bands is that Blackbird Hill makes chameleon songs that shapeshift into other ideas.

By name-dropping so many artists you might be forgiven for thinking I’m saying Blackbird Hill may not have a unique sound. That’s not true. The duo just remind me of bits and pieces of certain bands and artists I already love. What Blackbird Hill does so well with this album is merge different periods of rock together. It is something that could sound too compartmentalised or rigid and it never does. The biggest praise of this album is that I feel like I’ve experienced 40 years of rock in 40 minutes. I’ve also felt like I’ve discovered a new band with its own unique melting pot of rock. All this from just two people too. You’d never be able to tell as the mix is brimming with sound. Rock on.

Recommended track: Flatline

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Blackbird Hill - Embers in the Dark



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