VENREZ are an odd, but likeble bunch on record. They have produced an album in American Illusion that is both challenging and accessible, and eight of its 10 tracks are straightforward rock with a lyrical social consceince.
But on two of the tracks they wander off the well-worn hard rock mode, but in no less an enjoyable way.
There is a rawness about the entire feel of the album, with opener a perfect example. Singer Ven said of it:
"'Unforeseen' is my favorite track on 'American Illusion'. It's brutally heavy and demanding to play right.
"It's 'At The Drive In' meets 'Alice in Chains' and really reflects the experiences we've had touring the world together."
Ven's comparison to these bands stand up, but throughout the rest of the album it teeters between the classic hard rock edge and alternative, stoner rockers such as QOTSA.
For example, Free Will has moments of sheer rock splendour amidst a groove that would not be alien to desert rock. But the previous track has a stomp and vigour reminescent of the glory days of 80s hard rock.
Ven's vocal delivery is under-stated, and almost laconic at times, echoes of Layne Stayley merging with his own take on how difficut issues should be delivered. Unlike many of Venrez's contemporaries there are not tales of excess and misogny.
As the title of the album - American Illusion - suggests lyrically they tackle a society with more problematic issues than it can cope with; and no army of therapists, counsellors, pchychiatrists or psychologists can help during this century.
That combination between hard rock musical attitude and lyrics to challenge listeners means that this album falls into that elusive category - a 'grower'. On the first couple of spins there is more than a little to engage, but by the time you have listened to the likes of Silver and Gold and Vultures you 'get it' and can settle back to enjoy.
The weird bit comes in the last two tracks - the Beat Goes On and Temptress of the Moon. Beat Goes On has dated synth and distorted vocals which would have not been out of place in an early 90s experimental rock act. However, the repetitive, almost hypnotic delivery makes it strangely likeable.
Throughout the album - anchored by the rhytm section of Mike and Ed - the twin guitars of Alex and Jason are to the fore, with riffs aplenty prominent in the mix.
But, on the album closer - the lengthy Temptress of the Moon - they are given free reign to explore delicate textures. At times it is as if Dave Gilmuor, Snowy White and Syd Barret got together with some prog rockers and did some acid. And that is a good thing.
Apart from the slight departure of the last two songs Venrez have produced a solid, enjoyable album - one worthy of a listen before their Belfast date. Guitarist Alex Kane is no doubt about where the band are:
Now with this new album, "American Illusion", we have our best material to date and the band has never been tighter. I think everyone who comes to see us again will say it was worth the wait. Those seeing us for the first time will not be disappointed either."
American Illusion is available now. You can catch them supporting Buckcherry and Hardcore Superstars in the Limelight on November 27th. Tickets available from usual outlets.