The Norwegian group, whose past and present members have been played in black metal luminaries such as Enslaved and Gorgoroth as well as doom-rockers Sahg, formed in 2002 and released three full-length records that reeked of banality. Initially influenced by the likes of Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and A Perfect Circle, Audrey Horne’s highly derivative and colorless music sold well and earned the band critical acclaim in their homeland, nonetheless, artistically speaking, much more was expected from such proven musicians.
That’s why Youngblood is such a startling surprise—gone are the quasi-metal meanderings and post-grunge gloom, and rushing to the fore is a collection of triumphant anthems that recall the monsters of rock that stalked stadiums around the world during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Sonically, Audrey Horne are now an entirely different proposition, and backed by a new label, Napalm Records, this four piece consisting of returning guitarist Arve Isdal (Enslaved), guitarist Thomas Tofthagen (Sahg), drummer Kjetil Greve and singer Toschie are finally capable of demanding and retaining attention.
The swift shift in sound is apparent the moment “Redemption Blues” makes itself known. An opener which begins with spiralling, twin guitar harmonies and moves through a series of propulsive, NWOBHM-inspired riffs and fiery leads, over which Toschie, now stripped of all introspection and singing with a boundless swagger, delivers a magnetic performance. It’s a jaw-dropping start, and from here Audrey Horne never look back, nor do they revisit their past.
“Straight to your Grave” rocks like Wheels of Steel-era Saxon riding through the pop-melodies of Boston, while “There Goes a Lady” provides a staggering example of how to combine the charm of Aerosmith at their most anthemic to the bluesy grooves of ZZ Top and Deep Purple. Likewise, “Cards with the Devil” and “Pretty Little Sunshine” sparkle through the zeal of their Rainbow-esque riffs and hook-charged vocals; not to mention the battling leads that illuminate the end of the latter.
And it’s these songs chiselled from classic hard rock that connect the most; none more effectively than the bombastic riffs and soaring vocals of “The Open Sea,” that together channel the spirit of prime Toto and Foreigner during the song’s sky-scraping chorus—a chorus that is only equalled by that of the all-inclusive sing-along of “This Ends Here.”
In fact, each of Youngblood’s 10 songs are worthy of the same wide-eyed adoration, and through immense songwriting, killer hooks and heroic musicianship, Audrey Horne have re-imagined themselves as one of this century’s few essential hard rock bands. Who knew that changing their influences back a decade or two further would reap such artistic rewards? Youngblood is a revelation—believe this hype.
(released February 5, 2013 on Napalm Records)