I have to be completely honest, when I first received the promo for this album, my reaction was “Glenn Hughes? Isn’t he that guy who sung vocals for Deep Purple alongside David Coverdale?”
For those not in the loop, Glenn Hughes is still around and doing stuff. In fact, in the last few years, his name is likely to be familiar to people for his work with Black Country Communion and California Breed (the latter of which was kind of a continuation of the former) and he has actually been somewhat busy pretty much since he left Deep Purple, having done solo albums and been in a bunch of bands since his time in Marks III and IV of Deep Purple.
The name that is arguably more important to Voodoo Hill, however, is not Glenn Hughes, but guitarist Dario Mollo. Probably best known for his work as a producer nowadays by most people, Dario originally started out in the Italian band Crossbones (which only released one record in the late 80s) and moved into a career in record production in the 90s. His next record was actually with Tony Martin (Black Sabbath’s longest lasting vocalist after Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio), with whom he has released three records (1999’s The Cage, 2002’s The Cage 2 and 2012’s The Third Cage), but the project that most people are likely to know about is Voodoo Hill, which released their self-titled debut in 2000 and their second album, Wild Seed of Mother Earth, in 2004.
11 years later, we have Waterfall. We’ll leave the Chinese Democracy/Time jokes aside and instead ask one question: is this a good record?
Short answer? Yes. It has a few flaws, but it mostly works out to be an excellent record that is worth hearing if you like hard rock in general.
Long answer? Read on…
When it comes to Voodoo Hill’s sound, you pretty much just can think of 70’s hard rock and you’re on the right track. While I will say that Mollo’s guitar style is a bit more technical than the average 70’s guitarist was (see the guitar opening for ‘All That Remains’), you almost certainly will get a very strong old school feel from this record’s sound, which isn’t entirely surprising when you consider Glenn Hughes was around when this sound was new and exciting and Mollo almost certainly was hugely influenced by that sound. I think part of this is because the record doesn’t feel like it’s been written to a checklist like a lot of modern hard rock albums seem to do: you can hear that the songs all have distinctive differences from each other and, as such, none of the songs feel like retreads of previous songs, but they don’t resort to jumping genres to do so (usually done through tempo changes, shaking up the levels of heaviness and melody across the record per song and not writing about the same topic too much). It also stops the songs from blending together, so none of the songs stop feeling interesting. It isn’t necessarily offering anything new, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when done well, which this is! Beyond my generally uninterested opinion of ‘Sunflower’, I can’t say any of the songs failed to offer me anything that caught my interest, which is a surprisingly rare thing for me to admit!
On the performance front, I have to give credit to pretty much everyone, although I think Mollo is the person I would personally regard as having provided the spotlight performance due to his excellent guitar playing across the whole record. Glenn Hughes also deserves a lot of praise in that, while you can tell from his vocal tone that he’s not a young man any more, he still has a surprisingly good voice, which is all the more impressive when you realize that he has been singing for almost fifty years now! This is not to take anything away from the other performers on the record (Dario Patti and Andrea Maiellano cover bass, with Patti also handling keyboard duties, and Riccardo Vruna and Vladimir Ruzicic Kebac cover drums), who do excellent jobs as well, but I think Mollo and Hughes are probably what most people came into the record wanting to hear and both do not disappoint in the slightest.
I think my only major complaints are based on the production (which could have done with a slightly quieter mastering and a bit more bass, but I also am aware that I say that about just about every record I hear, so put that one down to personal preference) and the length of the album (which drags a tiny bit at the end of the record, but not to a drastic enough extent that I feel it would have warranted cutting a track from the album to improve it).
Ultimately, Waterfall is a really solid record. I think it’s fair to say that old school hard rock fans will really enjoy this record and, well, if you like old school hard rock, chances are you like hard rock in general, so…yeah, hard rock fans, you’ll want to pick this up!
Waterfall will be released on the 16th of October on Frontier Records. A promo copy of this album was provided for review purposes.