Ablaze are a band that wear their influences on their sleeves, and those influences are many and varied…. Sort of. They keep to their genre, and there are a lot of moods that really call to the titans of that sound. AC/DC, most prominently, but also hints of everything from Thin Lizzy, The Living End, Airbourne, The Screaming Jets through to Ozzy and Led Zeppelin come through their music, and many more. It’s hard to suggest that while keeping to the genre of ‘Pub Rock’, there is much range or many options for creative development. That said, there is a difference between referencing and imitating, and, if you can pardon my briskness, Ablaze’s debut album No Chaser is as worth your time as any album in this genre.
First, I would argue that despite there being moments that will make you think of specific songs (that you can name thanks to their similar riffs or vocal lines), but there is no dud track on this album. Even my least favourite, “Long Way Home” I would happily listen to again and again. Before I dig into the tracks that stood out to me, it’s worth commenting that the production on this album is impeccable. The mix is clear and balanced at every point, with no one dropping out or fading into the background. The vocals of Danny Slaviero cut like a knife through the chunky riffs and heavy beats, the drums sound gorgeous and full in the mix whether you’re on headphones or speakers, even my most usual criticism (the bass disappearing) is invalid, as it sounds rich and warm. This album is damn good.
If I must stop gushing for a moment, here’s some nitty gritty. This is Ablaze’s first full album, after heavy abuse of the gigging circuit and some very impressive supports, as well as few EP’s. The names that have brought these lads on are significant, including such as The Screaming Jets, Marky Ramone, and a full tour of Under the Southern Stars. The faith showed there is absolutely repaid in this album. For me, I liked most when they lean into their more bluesy references, such as on tracks such as “Kings and Queens”, “(We’re Gonna) Rock’n’Roll”, and “Bar Fight Blues”. Danny’s vocals really favour this style, which along with his impressive rock abilities make for a commanding performance. Along with that, the drums of Dan Mangano and bass of Dave Knight stand out exceptionally in these moments. I’d also like to draw attention to a gem near the end of the album, “Where’s My Drink”, which is the Thin Lizzy song that Phil Lynott ought to regret not writing.
The tracks that sit closer to straight rock, including “Dirty Little Secret”, “Bad Tattoo” and “Two’s Up”, strayed between the influences of local bands like Airbourne and AC/DC and the more California rock sounds of bands like Motley Crue or Van Halen, in no bad way. I think if they had haunted one or the other too much, it would have easily come off as derivative, but the mix lends well to some variation. I have spent a lot time talking about other bands, and I think if you listen to this album you’ll understand why. That said, the original work here is fantastic. Ablaze may sound at moments like other bands, but if so it’s a killer cover band playing a set of undisputed classics, and none of the bands that they remind me of sound like Ablaze. Ben Anderson and Matt Dynon’s riffs are played with a skill and finesse that belays the dirty guitar tones and there’s not a note that sounds out of place, more than most of their peers.
To take a moment, it’s worth talking about how well this band gels. One of the best things about this genre is how cleverly the skill shines through. Like a suspect haircut, it manages to look messy as all hell effortlessly, while masking the work that goes in. The hard rock sound and overdriven tones that pulse through the veins of this absolute muscle car of an album hide the crispness of every beat, the precision of every note. These songs, and this album is a cleanly put together as any I’ve heard in the genre, with all the feeling of the debut album it is. That’s not an easy feat and should be applauded.
This review feels light on detail, but that’s mostly because even my criticisms are more of the genre than this band. It’s not a perfect album- there are some raw bits occasionally. Still, by the end of my second listen, I’d purchased the physical CD and tickets to their next local gig. That’s what I thought of it. I recommend giving it a shot yourselves.
Pick up the album HERE!