I’m not adventurous enough to make any predictions just yet, but I’m beginning to think that 2006 may be remembered as “the year of the movement.” From gloomy Joy Division followers like I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness and Film School, to the freak/psych folksters Vetiver, Espers, and Six Organs of Admittance. Now with bands like Wolfmother, The Sword, and Comets On Fire, it seems we’ve got another movement on our hands. I won’t be so audacious as to name it, but I will go so far as to say that it breathes life into a genre that’s in need of some new role models. Rose Hill Drive is the latest addition to this up-and-coming batch of vintage metal-heads with a vision for a more metallic future. On their self-titled debut, they blend sumptuous hard rock vigor with a touch of blues that’s sure to incite rampant foot-tapping from fans of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath alike.
But Rose Hill Drive is more than a welcome respite from the polished and force-fed rock that seems to be the only thing ruling mainstream airwaves these days. Brothers Jake and Daniel Sproul and Nathan Barnes have done their homework, the result is an impressive debut that pays homage to ’70s guitar gods while simultaneously shaming the glossy sheen of the Audioslaves and Velvet Revolvers of the world. And speaking of Audioslave, on many songs lead singer/bassist Jake Sproul’s vocals bear a striking resemblance to those of Chris Cornell (when he was in his good band, Soundgarden) circa Badmotorfinger.
From the inciting speed riffs of “Showdown” to the grind and stomp of the bar-brawling “Cool Cody,” Rose Hill Drive make their presence felt early on. “Cold Enough” is pitch-perfect Soundgarden in the days when loud was the only aesthetic Cornell seemed to concern himself with. Which is not to say it’s all thrash and burn when the volume knob is cranked, as complex melodies form the other half of the hard-hitting equation that is Rose Hill Drive. Imagine my delighted surprise in finding the acoustic 4-song cycle that forms a seamless nine minute epic about halfway through the album. Sproul’s voice sheds the arsenic and adopts a Brendan Benson-like sincerity and tone while highlighting his remarkable vocal range. Like an extended outtake from The Alternative To Love, it stands as a testament to the band’s versatility and knack for composition.
The boys of Rose Hill Drive also see fit to dabble in bluesy rockers. Take the stretched-out jam “Reptilian Blues,” a seven and a half minute journey of exile built upon the rhythmic tag-team of Sproul and drummer Barnes and Daniel’s arching guitar riffs. The song is pure bravado, Sproul musing “I was born without a name/ I’m gonna leave just the same.”
If my theories on movements pans out, you can bet Rose Hill Drive will be at the crest of the wave, long hair draped gloriously over their shoulders with instruments brandished like battle axes, tuned and ready to lead the way. Chris Cornell, eat your heart out.
Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
Led Zeppelin – III
Wolfmother – Wolfmother