With a top 15 UK chart position following second album, 2020’s Point of No Return, a slot at 2022’s Download Festival, Those Damn Crows has continued to go from strength to strength. Being a dynamite live act has swelled their fan base and three months before the new record was even released, the tour to support it was mainly sold out with many venues upgraded to larger ones. No pressure, then.
The live experience and albums can be something of weird science, though. Those Damn Crows is an enviable live act but the albums could take some time to gravitate to what the Crows bring to the live show. With song writing solidly at the core, those songs do become anthems and veritable brain burners and the whole experience then does become one and totally interchangeable. Point Of No Return was an excellent record where the band definitely stepped up to the plate in terms of song writing.
Despite the chirpy stage patter and humour, Those Damn Crows can be a bit deep on the lyrical front and Inhale/Exhale is no different with lyricist and vocalist Shane Greenhill touching on the concept of the album, drawing on personal hardships and how humans react to surroundings and experiences, the Inhale/Exhale ties into the cover art of the ribcage as the protector of the respiratory system, Those Damn Crows is not short on looking for the whole deal in an album; one that is not just catchy hard rock but one that tackles mind, body and being at the same time.
In a nutshell, Inhale/Exhale should have Those Damn Crows bothering arenas and stadiums very shortly because such is the ambition, song writing and execution which is in some ways leaves the listener – pardon the pun – breathless. There is no time for the album to grow because from the off that this record is so immediate, infections, it gets under the skin and stays there refusing to budge. With no shortage of towering melodies and herculean riffs, Inhale/Exhale is the sound of a band at the height of confidence that has found its niche, comfortable in its skin and is united in what it wants to achieve – and the songs are huge.
Following the short feedback intro on Fill The Void, the guitar – courtesy of Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas and David Winchurch – kicks down the door but loads on the melody before the more punch in the gut and the don’t-push-us-around of Takedown, the guitar and drums running the beat with Greenhill’s vocals having an edge on the verse before the soar of the chorus. Even in two songs, the album already shapes out to know what it wants to do, it brings a collection of songs in the right order delivering bangers and anthems aplenty and keeps it rolling hook for hook, it is the delivery of light and shadow that makes Inhale/Exhale such an exhilarating listen. While ballads can be album killers, This Time I’m Ready is a truly exceptional example of how to make a ballad a highlight. For sure, one of those holding the lighter aloft moments, there is some heart wrenching on the lyrical side with Greenhill putting in a seriously emotive performance but then the last third hits and that hulking riff kicks in to replace the lighters for heads banging in unison as Greenhill shouts “you’ll never see it coming.”. Inhale/Exhale cannot be faulted for its scope and its widescreen and cinematic approach that really brings the songs to the fore while keeping the entire experience grounded and real in the sense of the lyrics and the concept. The musicianship is faultless (production is courtesy of Dan Weller) and a band that is putting in maximum effort to deliver a premium product and whether it is the layered Lay It On Me or on Find A Way, the icy on the verse against the guitar judder on the sky high chous that sees Greenhill putting in yet another superb performance and the album sees itself out with the eerie stabs of piano, a delicious bass rumble and then – yet again – a chorus that takes the Crows to the sky.
While it may be true that there is no wheel invention going on in Inhale/Exhale, what is happening is a band that continues to define itself on its own terms and some of the lyrical punches makes this clear. Those Damn Crows obviously does not want to stand still, the band knows that it has a fearsome live reputation and the increasing crowd sizes are proof of that but the pressure was on to deliver a follow up to Point Of No Return that exceeded expectations and Inhale/Exhale does that; there is no filler, it is wall to wall songs that will may be immediate now but will grow in stature over time. Inhale/Exhale is an album that brims with confidence and pizazz to make even the detractors doff their caps in appreciation.
Look to the sky because Those Damn Crows are flying high…