High On Fire
Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 22/11
Written by: AP on 17/03/2014 19:58:00
The Socks are yet another gem unearthed by the trusty Small Stone Records, and a perfect fit for a roster which has all the semblance of the Woodstock '69 line-up; one of those bands who, with one single, have the ability to chisel their name into your cerebrum and have you sweating like a rapist with anticipation. Their self-titled debut album is one I've been looking forward to ever since stumbling over the explosive "Some Kind of Sorcery" video single a few months ago, not least by virtue of Anders Danielsen of the Magnificent Music promotion agency's assurances that these Lyon, France born bandits were one of the bands he was most excited about in 2014. And, following intensive listening this pas week, it isn't difficult to fathom why.
Its opening track "Lords of Illusion" delivers a fine introduction to the band, exposing both their knack for busting out a slick rock'n'roll groove and their taste for embarking on mind warping psychedelic odysseys. It marches in, swells, and then collapses into a feverish jam midway; the rust of days gone by seeping in from every creak and crack in the fuzzy 70's style of production. It could almost be considered blasphemous to not mention Graveyard in the context of this style today, but truly, while there is a certain degree of inspiration drawn from the "Hisingen Blues"-era of the band, there are forces much more powerful and far-reaching at play here, the influence of the immortal trio Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd occupying a sizable portion of the Socks' stylistic palette, not least in the inspired use by rhythm guitarist Nicolas Baud of the Hammond organ.
But despite their overtly worn idols, the Socks have that unique character of managing to elude strong similarities to others of their ilk, or indeed any other bands in general. There is a touch of Witchcraft's Magnus Pelander to the way vocalist/lead guitarist Julien Méret hangs onto his notes, but his gruff, dusty style of singing sounds refreshingly inflamed in a genre where too often melancholic croons are the order of the day. Nowhere is this more pronounced than on the aforementioned off-the-hinges rock'n'roll banger "Some Kind of Sorcery", in which the salvo of high octane drumming that sounds like Jessy Ensenat might fall off his seat from sheer enthusiasm, not to mention the seething, string-wrenching urgency with which Méret and Baud strike their chords, only serve to heighten the ferocity of the lead axeman's vocal delivery. Mind you, this is no dime-a-dozen metal vocalist; it's all in the power and energy, much in the vein of Graveyard's Joakim Nilsson at his most climactic moments - but rawer, and packing more testosterone.
As such, there is no denying that despite the vinyl era production, the Socks don't exactly lack muscle. It's just that those muscles are flexed without cranking up the low end, resulting in a sound that falls short of the weight of stoner rock, but which isn't buried so deep in retrospect it's lost all its punch. This is one of the distinctive characteristics that the Socks may boast of: sounding both hard-hitting and vintage simultaneously. Another is that they refuse to be just one thing. "Next to the Light", for instance, begins in a grungy, downcast fashion that has me thinking of Alice in Chains, before N. Baud rolls out a haunting cascade of Gothic melody with the organ midway, transitioning the song into its more upbeat second half. "New Kings" then shows glimpses of Witchcraft-esque balladry, and "Holy Sons" in its wake sends us swirling into space, with Méret flushing his vocals with reverb before Ensenat, N. Baud and his bassist brother Vincent Baud unleash a storm of hypnotic psychedelia.
There's an element of surprise to this thing that keeps me on my toes throughout, the band exploring the full variety of their inspirations not just on a song-to-song basis, but also within the songs themselves. The Socks sound like they were born for this, their knack for songwriting purpose built for embracing all things dusty and worn. That is why the frenetic to-and-fro transitioning between late 60's/early 70's psych, groovy classic rock, doom and prog in tracks like "Gypsy Lady" and the phenomenal "Last Dragon" never sounds outrageous. Much and more has been said of late of the heritage rock movement's peaking and present decline, but bands like the Socks are there to remind us that the movement isn't ready for burial quite yet. What you have in this self-titled LP is an album that, in my humble opinion, belongs among the absolute elite of this genre.
Download: Some Kind of Sorcery, Next to the Light, Holy Sons, The Last Dragon
For the fans of: Black Rainbows, Graveyard, Led Zeppelin, Witchcraft
Release date 18.03.2014
Small Stone Records