The Cold Stares – Ways
13 tracks; 47 minutes
Unfortunately this album came to Blues Blast without supporting information and the CD sleeve contains few details. However, a quick Google search revealed that The Cold Stares is a duo: Chris Tapp plays all the guitar parts and Brian Mullins is on drums and since forming in 2010 they have released six albums and a few singles. Ways was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, TN but it is not clear from the band’s biography where they are based. The fact that they are a duo may lead you to thinking that this will be a relatively quiet affair but the album is quite the opposite with lots of heavy riffs and it is quite surprising that there are not more musicians involved.
The band sets out its stall straight from the start: Opener “Any Way The Wind Blows” has a core riff straight out of the Led Zeppelin playbook, the title track “Ways” being a slower number in similar vein; Chris sings in convincing style on these numbers though the meaning of the lyrics rather drifted past on the heavy riffs. There is plenty of aggression on the frenetic “I Was A Fool” and wah-wah features heavily on “White Girl”. Indeed, the quieter interlude of “Thorns” is a relief as Chris plays some resonator in a folkier style and there are some decent harmonies also on a song in memory of a lost friend. The riffs are not absent for long as “Into Black” opens with a nod to Black Sabbath, not only in the guitar work but also in the lyrics: “Then I stood on the edge of the Earth, then I stepped off into black, then I fell through the gates of Hell just so I could get you back”. Further acoustic interludes occur with “I Ain’t The One” with biblical references to John The Baptist and the River Jordan, “Angeline” which sounds like it is played on banjo and piano and “Jackson Mississippi” which recounts a tragic tale in times of hardship; in these quieter moments one is reminded of Led Zep III, especially as they contrast so starkly with the heavier numbers.
Perhaps the pick of the album for this reviewer was “Might As Well Die”, a moody, rather depressing, slow-burner with an opening organ sequence that sounds very much like “Your Time Is Gonna Come” (another Zeppelin reference!) but those who like the rockier stuff will probably enjoy most of the material on offer here.