Canada is not the place you would expect the bloodline of the great post impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh to run. But that is exactly where it has ended up, with Gary Borden (his great-great nephew) picking up not a brush, but a guitar to form his own masterpiece in the form of the self titled debut album from Blood Of VanGogh.
I was contacted by Gary out of the blue asking me distro methods in Australia, and hopefully pointing him in the right direction he kindly gave me a copy of the album. Now I have to admit I knew nothing of the band before that point, and in all honesty still don’t know enough. However I don’t see that as such a bad thing as it enables the music to speak for itself.
The album opens with a driving epic, Hell Behind Me, it’s a great opener as it really captures the vibe of the album immediately. It’s a great blend of classic and modern all at once, (this reflects the whole album) and it just makes you want to stamp your foot and nod your head. The chugging riff really pulls you along, and as the song closes, the vocal harmonies are somewhat reminiscent of Aerosmith’s ‘Sweet Emotion’. It’s really a cracker song!
Stop The Bleed immediately comes in with a point of difference to the opener. It’s noticeably more radio friendly and follows a running bass line in the verse that pulls each part of the song together. As the uplifting chorus hits we encounter the award winning voice of Sass Jordan (now of the band S.U.N. (check them out)) in a small call and response with the lead vocals of Borden.
The album flows into the heavier sounding Trapped that features, a cool short drum sample, as well as some impressive lead guitar from Borden. Love and Hate kicks off with Phil Collinsesque drums but quickly pulls back into line with the vibe of the previous song Trapped. A heavy and grinding riff with almost spoken double tracked vocals leading into an upbeat chorus, all the while building to a crescendo ending.
The Ugly Truth has very much got an early Foo Fighters sound, think ‘Monkey Wrench’. Alone takes it down a notch, breaking up the album with a laid back ballad, once again featuring some nice lead from Borden.
We are brought back up tempo with the more rocky yet still radio friendly Go Back. This is followed by Karma Road, a much heavier song that drives along, helped by a punchy thwacking snare from drummer Jamie Constant and once again some awesome guitar work. This track is one of the best on the album in my opinion.
It’s at this point I must say that the production of this album is really great. You can really hear the attention to detail in the great vocal harmonies, they brought industry journeyman and award winning vocalist Phil Naro to help out on Alone. There’s also the little extras like the drum sample in Trapped. But it’s not just the production, the performance is top notch. Jamie Constants drumming is great, yet doesn’t over do it, he plays what needs to be played, and the bass locks in well with him. The impressive thing is the bass and the guitar work is all done by Gary Borden. And the lead work is excellent. Borden is also the one belting out the rock solid vocals and harmonies.
Lady Heroine and Thin Line follow on with intent from Karma Road. Both are heavier tracks, with Lady Heroine a bit slow, but carrying a cool bending lead as the hook.
The sudden finger picking of acoustic guitar kicks off Save Your Will closely followed by the harmonic Aerosmith vocals again, somewhat bringing you full circle in channeling the opener Hell Behind Me. But this is a great song in its own right. The riff is a killer, and the song has a sense of urgency thanks to the pumping bass that slowly builds up the verses. The chorus builds to a full vocal drawn out harmony of ‘save your will’ with Borden’s vocal of the same line over the top. This track is the perfect closer to the album. It builds and builds to reach a flashpoint. Strangely though they followed this with the actual closing title Drops Of Blood. This is really a follow on fromSave Your Will, with the melody the same as the songs closing. This instrumental has a somewhat jungle beat closing out to an ambient end and I can’t help but think perhaps this track may not have been needed given the strength of Save Your Will.
This takes nothing away from what is a pretty damn solid debut release from Blood Of VanGogh. With hooky choruses and some killer guitar work, they take a bit of Foo Fighters, some Alice In Chains, a splash of Aerosmith and come up with a rock’n'roll cocktail that’s more than worth adding to your collection. Oh and it’s definitely shaken, not stirred!