Are you familiar with the Corrosion Of Conformity song "Diablo Boulevard" off of their "America's Volume Dealer" album? Well, the subject of this week's review is familiar with it. In fact, they liked the song so much they named their band Diablo Blvd. On a related note, "Diablo Boulevard" is actually a very good C.O.C. song. You should check it out. But enough about the song... on to the band.
Diablo Blvd is a group that formed in 2005 and they have just released their third full length EP titled "Follow The Deadlights".
The band hails from Antwerp, Belgium, a city which, frankly, I know nothing about other than it has something to do with diamonds. I only mention this because Diablo Blvd is "... lead by notorious stand-up comedian and singer Alex Agnew" who, of course, is Belgian and helps explain why I've not heard of him. Obviously the description "notorious" caught my attention so I did a little additional research.
Apparently Mr. Agnew is a pretty popular fellow in the land of waffles (Belgium) and has sold out the country's largest arena, Sportpaleis, four times over with his comedy. He took a sabbatical from comedy back in 2013 to focus on his work with Diablo Blvd. There was a lot of other information too but unfortunately I don't speak Belgian. Actually, I'm not quite sure what language they speak. Isn't it sad how ignorant I am of other cultures? But I digress...
According to Agnew's website, "Alex Agnew is niet alleen stand-up comedian. Hij is daarnaast tevens actief als leadzanger bij de hard-rock band Diablo Boulevard". So, there you have it.
In addition to Alex on vocals, the five piece group that is Diablo Blvd includes guitarist Dave Hubrechts, Andries Beckers also on guitars, bassist Tim Bekaert and drummer Kris Martens.
Now that you've met the band let's move on to the record.
You might expect a band fronted by an award winning stand-up comedian to be, well, funny. They are not. What they are is a solid band that creates songs that are at times heavy, often melodic and ultimately very easy to listen to.
Diablo Blvd lists their influences as Danzig, The Cult, Guns 'N Roses, Black Label Society, classic rock and blues. At this point in the evolution of heavy metal, with decades of history and thousands upon thousands of bands from which to draw inspiration, it's exciting to hear how new bands draw from those who have come before.
I definitely hear the Cult influence as well as Danzig throughout the "Follow The Deadlights" album beginning with the opening track "Beyond The Veil". Diablo Blvd has a great handle on writing groovy riffs and combining them with catchy choruses.
I simply must mention the vocal melody on "Son Of Cain". After listening to band after band scream, growl or grunt their lyrics it's refreshing to hear a metal song where the focus is on the melody of the vocal. The progression on this one is so unique it merits a special mention.
My pick for the feel-good-hit of the winter is the cut "We are Legion" which sounds like the bastard child of Type O Negative and Danzig. With it's Peter Steel-esque vocal intro it really slams into what I feel is the grooviest and catchiest track on the album.
The music and production quality of the record is really top notch which can be attributed to the skill of the band and the American duo Jay Ruston (mix) and Paul Logus (mastering) who have previously been behind the sound of Anthrax, Meatloaf and Steel Panther.
So let's review - "Follow The Deadlights" is the latest album from a Belgian metal band who's name comes from a Corrosion Of Conformity song, who's lead singer is an award-winning, former comedian and was mixed and mastered by Americans. Got that? Good.
Diablo Blvd is an amalgam of a lot of different styles all rolled into one. The music they make is fun but not funny, heavy but with enough of a pop feel to make it a favorite of even non-metal fans and contains some super contagious choruses. "Follow The Deadlights" is a blast. It didn't blow my mind but it's a solid album and I had a great time listening to it.
In October 2013 singer Alex Agnew performed his last comedy show so he could focus all his attention on Diablo Blvd. In spite of not hearing his stand-up, I think it's safe to say he made a good decision. Suddenly I'm craving waffles.