Albany down are a UK rock band with their roots firmly in the classic rock camp. In fact, their sound arguably predates even the new Wave Of British Heavy Metal, with a retro vibe harking back to the early ‘70s. Add a melodic sensibility from the 1980s, and plenty of lush keyboard and orchestral soundscapes, and it’s a beguiling combination. At heart, it’s a power trio of founder member Paul Turley on lead vocals and guitars, Ben Atkins on bass and Pete Hancock on drums, with all three also contributing backing vocals. Most of the noticeable harmony vocals on this set are female though, coming from Cat Wyn Southall; they also use a keyboardist in the shape of Nick Nasmyth, who adds a whole extra dimension to the music.
For this set, there is also a string section, a brass section and a choir, so they certainly can’t be accused of skimping on the sound. As with all three of their previous albums, Born In The Ashes is produced by Greg Haver. An hour-long, 13-song set kicks off with the aggressively thudding, percussive mid-tempo drums and bass of Always Want What You Can’t Have, which was also the lead single, and is kept rolling along by a fluid rhythm guitar backing. Good News is a faster, minor-key traditional hard rock number in the manner of Survivor or Triumph, and also introduces us to Turley’s lead guitar.
There is a minor change of direction for the soulful second single, Same Damn Thing, dedicated to those of us who feel stuck in a rut sometimes. Turley opts for a clear-toned, reverby Strat tone, very reminiscent of Gypie Mayo’s guitar sound on the more commercial of Dr. Feelgood’s material, with swelling brass backing as well – the official video can be viewed at the foot of this page.
For the most part though, it’s traditional heavy rock, with a flavour of Robin Trower in Reflections and an influence of up-tempo classic rock such as Rainbow’s Stargazer in Don’t Look Back. The first major highlight for me though, is track 7, the Bruce Dickinson-style Darkest Day, with its apocalyptic survival theme, driving rock and tight stops. It suddenly slows to a crawl for some sad reflection at two and a half minutes, with some tastefully mournful guitar work, followed by a soaring keyboard backline and slide guitar solo. An excellent number.
The intensity slackens off noticeably with the feelgood country-tinged soul of I’ll Come Running, with a brass section backing recorded by the Uppercut Horns in New Zealand.
Penultimate number This Heavy Soul is another highlight, a rim-shot ballad interspersed with soaring string backings, building to a full-on lighter-waving anthem, with Dave Gilmour-style guitar work thrown in. The decent, riffy, major key pop-rocker Let Your Love Shine brings the collection to an upbeat conclusion.
This is what you might call a salt-of-the-earth rock band; not shredders, little glam or flash, but straight-up honest-to-goodness classic rock of the type we all grew up on. Long may they continue.
Born In The Ashes by Albany Down will be available from Friday 1 September via AD Recordings