Review by By Monty Sewell for MPM
The unapologetically ritzy bandits of rock rejuvenation return with their fifth album to date, ‘Floor 13’. An energetic mixture of covers, live versions and behind the scenes coverage, it comes as a timely release seven months after their well received ‘No-Tell Motel’ record that saw Black Diamonds launch into their 17th year as a band.
Having spent the last decade releasing an original album once every four years (for those eager mathematicians out there, Black Diamonds’ third album was a live one) it was great to have them drop this extra nine track bonus to ease the usually long wait.
I’d first come across the band back in 2017 just after they released their ‘Once Upon a Time’ record. As a kid who’d grown up in the 90s I can tell you it was an absolute godsend to hear something fresh that could have been time shot straight from the 80s when scraggly hair and leather sleeves laid down the law.
So, having followed them to a fairly close degree I was very much anticipating what this album would bring.
They kick things off with a cover of the Gary Moore/Phil Lynott classic, ‘Out In The Fields’. As an untiring fan favourite upon which Moore shall seemingly forever lie, and Lynott’s last big hit before his tragic death, it’s not a cover that should be taken lightly nor ill-respected. Unsurprisingly, Black Diamonds do it justice with Mich Kehl’s vocals slipping seamlessly into key, delivering a well strung performance.
The following three tracks take to the stands with valour as live versions of ‘No-Tell Hotel’, ‘Turn To Dust’ and ‘My Fate’. Taken from their fourth studio album also titled ‘No-Tell Hotel’, they act as almost gifts to those who have been unable to get through venue doors.
Newest member of the group Chris Johnson serves a superlative offering of inexorably good guitar solos, not only mastering what is on record but throwing in extra notes and delicious sweeps. Johnson is said to have come from a more metal and rock background than his blues edged predecessor so it will be interesting to see in which direction this swings their future writing.
Another cover, another classic. ‘Rainbow in The Dark’ by – of course -Dio moulds itself into the album as a live take on the number. Unusual as it is to have a guitar and not that signature keyboard unmistakabley rapping away, it works well as, not a stand out, but a complimentary ode to Black Diamonds’ most influential era.
‘Reaching For The Stars’ is the three quarter way acoustic break. It was originally released earlier this year as the feel good, hands to the sky track after ‘No-Tell Hotel’s’ emotionally revved ballad ‘Hand in Hand’. I thought it was grand to see them not go for the obvious acoustic choice and demonstrate a versatile side to their musicianship.
Track 7 is a re-release of their first ever single ‘Black Thunder’ from back in 2011. Released two years before their debut album ‘Perfect Sin’, it’s a song that flew under the radar for most so to be reintroduced to this head-banging Black Diamonds initiator is something I’m sure many won’t take for granted.
However, the one true surprise on ‘Floor 13’ was the guys’ take on The Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumping Jack Flash’. Despite being a personal favourite Stones track of mine, I’m always eager to hear the heavier covers as they tend to give well to the vigorous flavours that the original oozes out.
The key to keeping ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ true to what first made it spectacular is a good, solid foundation. Andi Barrels (bass) and Manuel Peng (drums) do a grand job of keeping the leads grounded whilst adding a bit of extra flair (Manuel’s aggrandised cymbal crashes for the final stretch).
For those lucky enough to get their hands on ‘Floor 13’ with the bonus ninth track, ‘Do-Tell Hotel’, they will agree it’s well worth a listen for the die-hard fans eager to take a peek behind the leopard print curtain. In the age of over-intimacy through social media, hearing the detailed process of writing and recording felt natural and informative. The guys are likeable and their obvious diligence puts them in a no-questions position of whether or not they have many more years to come.
‘Floor 13’, as a whole, is less of a ground-breaking pivot for the band than a compilation of varying material showcasing Black Diamonds in their finest years gone by. Though the new listener may not fully appreciate the prominence of this record, the avid follower will sink into each track with earnest excitement. Black Diamonds appear to be cleansing their palates in preparation for a new long running span of bigger and better bandana wrapped rock.
Find us here: Website: https://www.blackdiamondsrock.com