The Kentucky-based hard-rock bunch (or swamp-metal outfit, as some people like to call them), BLACK STONE CHERRY, finally decided to try something they had always dreamed of doing: tracking an album full of all-new material at The Plaza Theater in Glasgow, Kentucky – a legendary 1020-seat venue built in the 1930s, boasting meticulous acoustics. In their own words, “Every time we played the Plaza, we wondered what it would sound like to record drums there.” Now, on their new album, “Screamin’ At The Sky,” set to be released on September 29th, 2023, via Mascot Records, the band seems to have decided to put all their eggs in one basket by recording the whole endeavor at the venue during the summer of 2022 – and it really paid off: not only does the new effort have a lot to say lyrically and musically but it sounds pretty damn immaculate sonically as well. Their previous outing “The Human Condition” (2020) magnificently captured the atmosphere of uncertainty that permeated the early months of the pandemic. This time, even when dealing with the darker shades of the human condition, the mood is perhaps a tad less grim overall. The songs have been written on tour and it shows; the grooves are executed pretty damn tightly and yet, the band sounds remarkably laid-back at the same time. Maybe it’s just me but, on occasion, while listening to the album, I caught myself thinking that this is what AEROSMITH would sound like today if they still made good music.
The album’s title track is served right off the bat as the opener and it rolls out a tight jab of the band’s signature hallmarks: rolling hard-rock riffs and vocalist Chris Robertson‘s trademark belting. The band has toured with a wide array of superstar outfits over the years, with bands such as ALTER BRIDGE, DEF LEPPARD, GOV’T MULE, and BAD COMPANY, to name just a few. In a way, the opening track, “Screamin’ At The Sky,” is quite a spotless amalgamation of these aforementioned groups, mixing the laid-back grooves, catchy singalong choruses, and overall vibe of these hard-rock mammoths. The band’s general feel-good vibe on this new album – shining most prominently on tracks such as “Nervous” and “Show Me What It Feels Like” – is a trait they share with bands such as ALTER BRIDGE and TREMONTI. It’s been a while since my last workout at the gym but I would reckon this album works magnificently as a little motivational push in that particular context (maybe minus the more downtempo-ish tracks, “R.O.A.R.” and “Here’s To The Hopeless.”)
Rewinding some 3 years, the single “Again” proved quite an earworm on the band’s previous outing. I’m no voodoo priest but, this time around, I would bet my money on the album track, “When The Pain Comes,” proving a fan favorite of similar magnitude, what with having all the right ingredients in all the right places. BLACK STONE CHERRY sure does wield innate authority in this sort of hard-rock grinding. The follow-up track, “Out Of Pocket,” only provides further proof for my outrageous claim; alternating between the mellowness of the verses and the punchy riffs of the choruses, the song simply demands to be put on repeat. Well, it was released as the lead single earlier this year, and, during the band’s recent shows, it has already become a fan favorite, so I guess I’m not the only one who thinks it just rocks.
For lovers of banging hard-rock riffs, the album sure is a treasure trove. As luck would have it, there are no ballads whatsoever! Yes, a few tracks traverse in a tad less frantic tempo but still pack enough punch not to tip over to the ballad side of things. When it comes to the riffs, they keep kicking and jumping like wild horses set loose – in addition to the songs already mentioned, most notably on tracks such as “Smile, World” and “Not Afraid.” Too bad for the neighbors if you live in a block of flats – this is exactly the type of music that needs to be played loud in order to savor the full flavor; moreover, in this particular case, it is also the only proper way to get a taste of that pristine room ambience of The Plaza where these tracks were recorded. Headphones would be the next best thing. The thing is, this album sounds like nectar to the ear, in terms of production and sounds. The perfect balance of atmospheric ambience and the wall of distortion is perhaps best demonstrated in the closer, “You Can Have It All,” the guitar tones in which are just frigging delicious – and I’m not even a guitarist, mind you!
In 2020, “The Human Condition” was the band’s sixth consecutive No. 1 debut on the UK Rock Albums chart and it racked up over 50 million streams worldwide. The new album keeps up the good work to such a degree that I would be genuinely surprised if it fared any worse. When bands put out new material, they will always tell you how excited they are – as they should be, of course – but, in this case, when these guys tell us how excited they are about their latest endeavor, their words come off carrying a little more momentum. It’s easy to be overly excited about material like this.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Screamin’ At The Sky
- When The Pain Comes
- Out Of Pocket
- Show Me What It Feels Like
- Smile, World
- The Mess You Made
- Who Are You
- Not Afraid
- Heres To The Hopeless
- You Can Have It All
Chris Robertson – vocals, lead guitars
Ben Wells – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
John-Fred Young – drums, backing vocals
Steve Jewell Jr. – bass, backing vocals