The BluesBones – Chasing Shadows
11 songs/51 min
The BluesBones new record Chasing Shadows is a dark album. It sits on your shoulders and weighs on your conscience. It is very raw and unremitting. It is also masterfully written and performed. It is one of those types of records you have to be in the right mood to enjoy properly. This is not feel good BBQ music, it is cleansing rumination on mortality while drinking bourbon music.
The only way to define this music is heavy. More than just informed by heavy metal such as early Metallica or Pantera, this Belgian blues-rock band has a unique sound that is big and muscular with a dark weighty tone. Singer and principal songwriter Nico De Cock sings with a thick, rusty voice. Guitarist Stef Paglia is a riff monster rolling out strong blues informed fretted freight trains. Edwin Risbourg on organ and keys adds a lush burbling counterpoint to Paglia. Rhythm section of Geert Boeckx on bass and Koen Mertens on drums plant a sturdy concrete bedrock.
Chasing Shadows is a concept album about a man with questionable morals who has been brought past the brink by personal tragedy and PTSD. This man eventually commits suicide by eating his gun. As a concept this could be a disaster. However, due to the cleaver straight forward song writing and chugging churning riff heavy instrumentation, the concept holds up and resonates.
The story of this album plays out linearly as a timeline for our protagonist through the song cycle. Listening straight through the 11 songs is rewarding allowing this tragic story to wash over you. Each song also stands alone. A song like “Demon Blues” with it’s funk/rock wah rhythm guitar and syncopated vocals moves. “Love Me Or Leave Me” has a slinky defiant groove. The hysterical image of a grown man breaking a playground seesaw and giving the children the “SeeSaw Blues” works on its own and is a key metaphorical turning point for the narrative.
The final song of the record, appropriately entitled “The End,” is an interesting juxtaposition of bouncing funky rock and dark resigned lyrics. This is the song in which our anti-hero finally realizes he can find relief in the form of his gun barrel. This is a dark and troubling final chapter to a dark and troubling story. But it is hard not to feel uplifted and relieved by the phased washes of bass and staccato guitar jolts. Even De Cock’s singing is lighter and more relaxed. This is a final disorienting blast that leaves the listener worried and resigned. It sticks with you.
Chasing Shadows is a consistent solid record with a strong through line and is a testament to the talent of The BluesBones. This hard rocking band doesn’t play 12 bar blues. They riff and rumble like a more nuanced AC/DC. Chasing Shadows is quite an accomplishment. Not an easy listen but a cathartic one.