Bolt From The Blue - Warped (Conquest of Noise)
Figuratively speaking, the title fits like a glove.
This long player hasn’t arrived entirely without warning, but its sonic impact is like a sucker punch to the side of the head from a blind spot.
No dispute that Warped is an Australian hard rock institution. Through two careers over the course of nearly three decades, the line-ups might have shifted but the commitment to that dirty “Geelong sound” has remained intact.
For the uninitiated, Geelong is/was an industrial city to the west of Melbourne which was a rich spring of of bands in the late 190s and early ‘90s. The town’s industrial nature has faded, but the “no airs, no graces” character of its music has hung in there.
Compared to Bored! and Powder Monkeys, Warped haven’t had me as a glued-on, longtime fan. The Geelong Sound seemed to be a perpetual arm wrestle between Sabbath riffs and punk rock scowl that produced a mixed bag, and Warped seemed on the side of metal for these ears. Your own results over the course of their previous four albums might vary, of course. Without much recall of their back catalogue or seeing them live down the years, I suppose I was approaching “Bolt From The Blue” with open ears.
Any reservations were blown away when I dropped the needle onto the vinyl. “Bolt From The Blue” is only seven songs but they all carry more musicality than I thought these guys had on previous hearings.
There’s no resisting the bed of scuzzy guitar on which “Sparks Fire” is built; there’s a vague resemblance to X’s “Degenerate Boy” - without the dole-cheque-up-the-arm allusions. The instrumental opener “Allison” also exudes gutter-rock odours, with a drum feel that’s nailed to the floor and a warm ’n’ dirty bass-line.
It’s on “Vertigo” that it all coalesces. Ben Watkins’ vocal sounds like a less ragged Joe Strummer and his crunchy riffing hammers home the song, and its raunchy melody. “How ‘Bout You” is nearly as good. Watkins has this drone-y guitar tone that’s very distinctive and fills the gaps. Cris Wilson is a wonderful drummer and bass-player Sammy Crawford adds to the engine room’s fluidity.
Warped is down to a three-piece these days but the impact of one fewer guitar seems to have honed their sound for the better. Producer/engineer Neil Neil Thomason can probably take a good chunk of the credit.
It's available as an LP or as a limited run CD at the link below. Let your mouse do the walking and then let volume be your friend.