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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Horizon spanning 10-track epic from The Answer

THE gospel according to The Answer is simple - good times rock 'n' roll and with New Horizon the County Down foursome have hit the rock 'n' roll equivalent of a home run, a hat trick in a cup final, or a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Four albums into their 13-year career and it would be easy for a band to coast...not so The Answer.

New management, new label and a new attitude have brought New Horizon storming into the forefront of 2013 releases; a hard rockin' blast of traditional blues and groove with a twist and balls proudly out.

It is a cliché when a reviewer says that a band's release marks a statement of intent, but take a moment to listen to album opener and title track New Horizon...
The late Storm Thorgerson designed
the cover for New Horizon 

This is a song that shows a new dynamic to the band: sharper and focussed attitude but still with the trademark sound of The Answer. To put it another way, if New Horizon had been released in the rock heydays of the mid-80s LA record execs would be waving cheque books and masturbating at the thought of signing them...new label Napalm Records should be lying back enjoying collective orgasms at having them on their roster.

Throughout the album the sound feels newer, tighter, and for the first time since the debut release of Rise the live feel has been captured; producer Toby Jepson has managed to grab the four members of The Answer by their collective necks and wrung out of them what could be a defining moment in their career.

When we caught up with Cormac Neeson for an interview on September 3rd he told us how he felt about the release:

"I think it's out most focussed hard-hitting record so far and hopefully our audience will get it and get what we have to say."

Any fan of The Answer's previous work or any fan of straightforward hard rock will get what the band have to say.

Photo by Carrie Davenport
When the album opens it comes as a little bit of a surprise - in the best possible way - the freshness of Paul Mahon's riffing and the rhythm section of Micky Waters and James Heatley have achieved that knife edge balance between looseness and being tight as a shark's arse.

Waters bass is a revelation. At the right pitch and with a perfect tone it provides pure drive to complement and enhance the rock solid Heatley throughout the album.

Mahon also appears to have taken stock of his always apparent talent and let loose with every shred of his range. From the funk/blues of Leave With Nothing through to fuzzed out solos and concise playing he is the foil to the passion of Neeson's passion, weaving patterns through riffs, off-beat tones and drawing meat from his six-strings.

Of the lead-up to the recording Mahon explains that the cumulative touring and playing to mega-audiences with AC/DC has led to the expansive but tight 10-track New Horizon.

"After all that time on the road, our songwriting’s so much tighter, all the fat has been stripped away and we’re much more direct. songs that we had in that vein seemed to go down with their
audiences, and we took all of that on board," he said.

Of course one could be forgiven for falling for the hype of a publicist's press release amidst the welter of information; but this is an album where the most effusive praise will still fall short of what this album deserves.

Even the down-beat track Call Yourself A Friend is uplifting when its meat kicks in. And the obvious anger of Somebody Else - with its pulsing high tempo vibe - provides a life-affirming song for every disaffected rocker on the planet.

Lead single Spectacular, with its message to be what you can be truly captures the dreams of youth, and how you can always live up to what you want, is a balls-out track that most rock acts would kill for. Listening to the lyrics makes the controversial video - banned by Youtube, but available at the end of this review - make sense.

Tracks like Baby Love Me - co-written with Cosmo Jarvis - keep the blues roots to the fore, through to the album closer, Scream A Louder Love showcase a band at the top of the game.

Neeson explained his approach to lyrics that are multi-layered and at the same time universal truths.

"I wanted to present my message like a Northern Irish guy should, with no frills and totally in your face,” he said.

No frills and totally in your face is what The Answer have always been, and on New Horizon they have captured the elusive elixir of pure hard rock, distilled into 10-track excellence.

New Horizon is released on 30th September on Napalm Records.

The Answer open their UK tour in Belfast's Limelight1 on October 11th! We'll see you there!

The unedited version of the Spectacular video is available to view here.

The 'clean' version is below:

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