Will Wilde may turn out to be the Eddie Van Halen of the harp…
This new band from Brighton, UK, is fronted by singer/songwriter/harmonica player Will Wilde, who formed the band with his guitarist buddy Steve ‘The Beak’ Brook in 2020. Wilde’s harp roots are in the blues, needless to say, but this is not a blues band, it’s a hard rock band. It’s just that instead of shredding guitar solos, it has shredding harp solos. Now that might sound a bit like a genre crossover, but it really isn’t – this is a hard-rocking heavy rock band to the core, it’s just that their main soloist plays the harp. Can that possibly work? Hell yeah, and I’ll tell you why – Wilde plays his harp like a heavy metal instrument; it’s overdriven, rocked up and he is very, very good at it. He also resists the temptation to touch it when he’s not soloing, so the backing is deep, tight, rock-solid guitar riffage. The Beak doesn’t just stick to pumping out the rhythms though; he is also a pretty mean lead guitarist, so even though Wilde’s harp is the band’s main distinguishing factor, it by no means ego-powers over the set.
Their hard-edged style is not overly sophisticated; they’re not trying to be Dream Theater, and some of the numbers are basically 12-bar, so yes, there is a bit of crossover, but no more than you would find with any bunch of young metalheads. The lyrics, all credited to Will Wilde and Sara Starbuck, cover the well-beaten metal path of cursed lives, faithless women, running with the devil and rebellion, themes that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever worn a studded leather jacket. Wilde’s voice is well up to the job, and the rhythm section of Alan Taylor on drums and Jack Turnbull on bass is rock solid and anvil-heavy.
They actually named the band after the opening number, lead single Bad Luck Friday, a classic New Wave Of Heavy Metal riffer about the general ill effects of having been born on a Friday 13th. The wave of spiritual blackness continues with 666 At The Crossroads, and you can tell from the title that this is based pretty solidly in the blues, despite being rocked up hard. Although some later tracks are more recognisably blues-based, Wilde plays his bluesiest harp in this one, before building to a fast, climbing crescendo.
Banshee starts with some ghostly screeching, and is based in real life, inasmuch as Wilde had a near-fatal motorcyle accident a few years ago – the Banshee of Irish legend is a spirit being whose cry is a portent of death, and Wilde came altogether too close for comfort on that occasion. Dust & Bones is a power ballad that starts with some clear-toned guitar arpeggios, and narrates the break-up of a relationship; Jealous Woman starts with a bit of Johnny Marr guitar work before dropping into a mid-tempo, heavy pub blues. Take The Best Of Me is the only number on the disc that utilises a kind of pounding 1970s guitar-and-bass backing riff rather than power chords, and the harmonica solo on this one is exceptional; heavily effected and overdriven, it comes across like a guitar with a whammy bar. It’s not blues harp, it’s heavy metal harp, pure and simple.
They drop into 50 Shades Of Grey territory for the fetishist anthem Mistress, but then Low Down And Dirty is pure pub blues, a slow 12-bar that features a harp solo and guitar solo in quick succession. Bonnie To My Clyde revisits the destructive relationship theme over a pretty basic backing riff, but boasts another outstanding harp solo. They round off the 37-minute set with Rebel With A Cause, which collapses into the end with some kind of crash effect and a couple of emergency vehicle sirens. It’s a breathless ride, and although there isn’t much here to interest fans of esoteric prog, if loud, hard, thumping rock is your thing, then you’ll be more than happy. And Will Wilde may turn out to be the Eddie Van Halen of the harp.