Not many bands are individual enough to play at two different festivals, each seemingly the polar opposite of the other. This year Lionize played at Bloodstock Open Air and Ramblin’ Man Fair… not only played at both, but by all accounts, went down the proverbial storm at both. On paper, that might seem an odd mix, but when it comes down to it, it’s all just Rock n’ Roll really. Think of Lemmy, and you’ll get the drift. ‘Nuclear Soul’ is the follow up to 2014’s ‘Jetpack Soundtrack’, and continues where the band left off. 2017 is much different to 2014 though, and ‘Nuclear Soul’ has a what-the-hell-is-going-on thread worming its way through the album. Lyrically, it’s perhaps the heaviest album that Lionize have produced, but at the same time, there is also an air of vulnerability about it, as well as lashings of Hammond organ… lashings and lashings of it.
The glorious and instantly recognizable sound of an organ opens up the album with ‘Darkest Timeline’, and keys man Chris Brooks looms large all over it. Nice. It’s also the first instance of the lyrical content being a tad darker, with Nate Bergman singing “You know, you know I got American blues, love it or leave it, I don’t want to choose”. Lyrics are, of course, open to individual interpretation, but I don’t think he’s talking about American blues as in the musical genre. With song titles like ‘Election Year’ (“don’t trust the government, it’s a pack of lies”), ‘March Of The Clones’, ‘Let You Down’, ‘Nuclear Soul’ and ‘Blindness To Danger’, it’s an album that deals with a certain sense of disillusionment, but at the same time, it’s not battering you over the head with doom and gloom like, say, Radiohead might (yeah cheer up Thom. Have a pint, lad). Musically, it grooves like a motherfucker, and if you can listen to ‘Face Of Mars’ without busting a move, then check your pulse. Hank Upton’s bass work and the drum sound from Chase Lapp give the song an irresistible feel. The “rock n’ roll funk and soul” description of the band is right in your face. For me, the Clutch comparisons begin and end with the fact that Jean Paul Gaster helped produce the album, and that both bands hail from Maryland. Lionize have the soulful funk edge to their music that Clutch don’t, and Lionize don’t have the heaviness or sludge that Clutch do. There is quite a bit of influencing from other bands though. Any band that features a Hammond so prominently will always get the Deep Purple comparison, ‘Fire In Athena’ has a Thin Lizzy celtic tinge, and ‘Let You Down’ features a stunning vocal performance that will have Joe Cocker raising a glass up there in the great gig in the sky. All British/Irish acts you may notice. Pick of the bunch on ‘Nuclear Soul’ is a toss up between the towering ‘Ain’t It A Shame’, which has the effect of stopping you in your tracks and making you listen, the aforementioned ‘Let You Down’, and the sizzling title track, which packs more into its four and a half minutes than many albums do in their entirety. Bergman’s vocals have a warm richness to them that make him stand out, and how can you not love a guy who takes to the stage at a UK festival wearing a gold jumpsuit?
Another album that will be jostling for top spot in end of year polls from mainstream press and rock media alike.
Review: Dave Stott