When I first heard the news that vocalist Robin McAuley, Jeff Pilson (bass, backing vocals, production), Reb Beach (guitars, backing vocals), and drummer Matt Starr formed a new band in BLACK SWAN, to say I was excited was putting it mildly. All of these men have a serious collective résumé and musical pedigree. If you don’t know who they are please stop reading and hit yourself in the head repeatedly with the first blunt instrument you can find. Debut album Shake the World is out now via Frontiers Music and it is a tasty collection of Hard Rock anthems sure to delight fans the world over.
Opener and title track “Shake the World” definitely gets things up and running in fiery fashion, while follow-up track “Big Disaster” is not only my favorite on the whole thing, but also has the best hook I’ve heard in ages. It is amazing to hear McAuley singing at such a high level this many years into his storied career. Clearly the man has been taking care of his instrument. That’s not to say the boys behind him are slouches, either. Beach’s riffs coupled with Pilson and Starr’s thunderous rhythm section propels this number into the stratosphere. “Johnny Came Marching” explores the dark side of what war vets go through upon returning home, their lives forever changed by some of the terrible things they’ve witnessed while in combat.
“Immortal Souls” changes things up a bit, with a slick groove and some nice background and gang vocals. That guitar lick during the hook is downright infectious, too. We venture into ballad territory with “Make It There.” Did you really think four dudes who came up during the 80’s wouldn’t have at least one of these on the record? Here’s the thing…it’s really GOOD! Sounding like it would be equally at home in 1987 as 2020 it’s an excellent blend of old and modern. Beach is let loose like the dogs of war on “She’s Onto Us”, a thick, meaty steak of a song that bleeds into a soaring chorus. Of course “The Rock That Rolled Away” flat out, well…ROCKS! Hence why it’s my other favorite. The whole band sounds like they’re having a blast, love it!
More guitar histrionics abound with “Long Road to Nowhere”, and underneath all that is the thick bottom end from Pilson and Starr’s hard-hitting drums. More big, beefy hooks are on the bill as well. If there’s any knock against this album it would be “Sacred Place.” It’s not terrible by any means, but it sounds a little too dated for me. But that’s okay because “Unless We Change” will blow your goddamn doors off, with Starr exercising his right to tom tom on the chorus and after Beach’s blistering solo. There is certainly no shortage of heavy on this one.
Closing the disc is “Divided United.” it starts off with Pilson on piano with McAuley delivering heartfelt vocals. Written by Pilson as soon as he got home from seeing the QUEEN movie Bohemian Rhapsody he was channeling what he felt at the time. And like the epic song of the same name it goes through several stages before rocking us home all heavy-like. All in all I truly enjoyed BLACK SWAN’S debut. This is a group I can get behind, and Shake the World will definitely please older fans of back in the day rock and metal, as well as newer ones. Pick up your copy wherever you buy music, plug in, and rock out!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “The Rock That Rolled Away”, “Big Disaster”, “Long Road to Nowhere”, “Make It There”, “She’s Onto Us”