Black Pistol Fire
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The Austin, Texas-based duo behind Black Pistol Fire once again takes things to a whole new explosive level with their new album, Look Alive. Ian Corbridge turns up the volume for Louder Than War and absorbs the mighty blues-rock riffs from this immense powerhouse band.
Let’s get the introductions out of the way first. Black Pistol Fire comprise vocalist/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer/bass synth player Eric Owen. As old nursery school pals back in Toronto, Kevin and Eric have known each other a long time which has probably helped them to fuse their sonic connections. This came to the fore when they formed the band around 10 years ago favouring a base in Austin, Texas, a move no doubt influenced by its more favourable musical connections to start working on material and establishing a presence.
Back in the day, Kevin started out with one guitar and one guitar pedal accompanied by Eric with his drum kit and a green Dodge Neon. However, with five albums under their belt between 2012 and 2017, the band have added significantly to their arsenal of sounds with Kevin adding numerous pedals and an ever-expansive range of sounds and Eric adding bass synth, electronic drums and many other colours to the mix. This has allowed their sound to develop way beyond traditional rock boundaries into what has become a very unique, explosive and expansive melting pot.
With influences steeped in classic rock’n’roll tradition fused with sounds produced by the likes of The White Stripes, Nirvana, Arctic Monkeys, G-Funk and I would argue even the likes of the Cramps, Black Pistol Fire have evolved into a significant powerhouse unit probably best described as a fusion of garage punk and blues-rock. Their incendiary live shows, which last made it over to the UK in 2018 as support for The Fratellis, have helped them to develop a significant worldwide fan base with songs gaining massive airplay on both Spotify and YouTube.
Since their last album in 2017, Deadbeat Graffiti, Black Pistol Fire have over the past year or so issued a number of digital singles, most of which feature on this new album, albeit in different forms. So the momentum has been building and the pathway has been established for the fan base, with a great deal of excitement to go with it.
For Look Alive, the duo teamed up with co-producer/ engineer Jacob Sciba (Gary Clark Jr, Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes) and mixer Vance Powell (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Chris Stapleton) so their stall was very clearly set out. And what an album they have produced together, notably with no guest performers at all, as they search for a clear way through into mainstream territory.
Opening song and title track, Look Alive, kicks off with strong synth beats and then ramps up as the drums and guitar kick in and I could tell immediately this is a band on a mission. Infused with some immense blues riffs, great intensity and a pulsating rhythm, it is a song which speaks of pushing through the darkness at a time when such a feeling is enveloping so much of the world. So this is definitely what we need right now.
Pick Your Poison is an absolute monster of a song with an immense guitar assault. A passionate rocker which talks of wounded love, this bristles with a classic blues-rock sound, and, with its immediate impact, I am left in no doubt what territory they are in. Holdin’ Up speaks of more heartbreak and sets off at a relentless and frenetic pace which never eases up.
Never Enough provides moments of absolute class drawing on much wider dynamic funk influences. Whilst this talks of being “broke down stuck in the past” this is very much a song for the future and one that will stay with me for a long time to come. Wildfire takes us back to the blues with a sentiment full of passion and really showcases Kevin’s wide vocal range. Hope In Hell moves with an assured swagger and a big guitar flourish to close the song that will go down a storm in a live environment.
Black Halo is another big moment on the album. Opening with the spirit of Duane Eddy, it simply explodes into a high tempo drumming masterclass overlayed by feedback, irregular guitar riffs and closing with short synth bursts. Temper Temper is full of raw emotion about a relationship on the edge bolstered by some monster rhythm and blues riffs on the synth. The psych infused Level starts off in a relatively mellow way before it explodes into life with fiery energy with a magnificent synth sound.
Always On My Mind oozes pure rock’n’roll power with killer guitar and bass lines and phenomenal drumming from Eric. And as Kevin sings “stoke the fire, fan the flames” there is a chorus here that will create a frenzy down the front of any gig. Final track, Beyond The Blue is another breakup song which has a more subdued feel in the context of the album as a whole but ends with an almost anthemic guitar solo from Kevin.
In Look Alive, Black Pistol Fire have created another unique album of great power, intensity and originality with a blend of influences that takes them way beyond any traditional blues and rock boundaries. Whilst the lyrical sentiments are dark in their nature, there is no doubt that through this album they deliver a message and a sound to push through that darkness as the band seek to move onto a higher plateau and establish an identity all of their own.
Of course, it is within a live setting that Black Pistol Fire really come alive and their frustration at the current never-ending absence of live gigs must be overwhelming, as it is ours. But despite this, they continue to deliver a truly immense perfectly executed sound in the studio and Look Alive sets a perfect marker to enhance their growing reputation around the world. Black Pistol Fire are on a consistent path to much greater things and on the evidence of this powerhouse of an album, there is little doubt that they will achieve the recognition they fully deserve in the very near future.
All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile.