If you were expecting some kind of Euro-rock hybrid, with a hint of flamenco or paella-heavy lyrical content, think again…
Imperial Jade are a Spanish hard rock band who released their debut album in 2015, and whose second album On The Rise was originally released in Spain only. Fortunately for the world at large, On The Rise now benefits from a worldwide release through Listenable records, with a couple of bonus tracks thrown in for good measure. I say fortunately, because this really is an album worth hearing. Opening with a hard, riffy guitar intro on You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (NOT the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song), the voice and vibe is instantly reminiscent of Rival Sons, but the Jade push it hard, not with overwhelming overdrive, but lots of hard-driving passion. Rival Sons take a back seat after that, because most of the rest of the album is given over to Led Zeppelin – second track Dance borrows the intermittent guitar rhythm of Zep’s Custard Pie, although the vocals are inexplicably low in the mix on this one. Which is a shame, because front man Arnau Ventura has an excellent, musical voice, not hard but powerful, with excellent technique and no hint whatsoever of a Spanish accent. In fact, if you were expecting some kind of Euro-rock hybrid, with a hint of flamenco or paella-heavy lyrical content, think again, because this is pure Anglo-American rock.
The southern states are given an outing on Sad For No Reason, with lo-fi mono hoedown slide guitar to start, giving way to more Led Zep influence before going into fast jug band rock, drifting through a number of tempo and rhythm changes, including some pretty neat bluegrass soloing. 1960s Beatles-esque psychedelia is up next in the reverb-soaked choruses of The Call, which still sweats Led Zep in the verses.
And so it goes on: Glory Train is not quite a ballad as it’s still quite powerful, but more hooky and melodic, background vocals adding to the wall of sound with twangy Allman Bros harmony guitar highlights; Lullaby In Blue is smoky jazz-blues with some unexpected female backing vocals. Weird sound effects begin the main album closer Struck By Lightning, with its freaky, trippy effects-laden vocals.
That brings us up to 45 minutes with 10 tracks of excellent and varied rock, but the two bonus tracks take us another 10 minutes into even more obscure alleyways. Hand Of the Puppeteer Master starts with a bit of jolly old country rock, with more Allman Brothers influence, (or more specifically Derek And The Dominoes), and some vocal lines picked up from Roger Waters.
Then just because they can, album closer Believe Master offers a neat, twangy slide intro in a weird and changeable time signature alternating between 6-8 and 7-8. Pink Floyd comes to the fore in this one, followed by a big, harmonica rocking blues twist stretching the song out to 6½ minutes.
I have to admit, this album took me a couple of listens to really get into; it’s not heavy enough to be considered hard rock, but too meaty to be anything else – but then again, that’s exactly the territory Led Zeppelin inhabited 50 years ago, and these five Spaniards have inherited their DNA.