Something of a United Nations, Blues Pills are a decidedly retro Swedish-American-French foursome that have been recently touted as something interesting to rank alongside other groups who have their sound rooted in the 1970s.
Pills are less to do with the Stones-y type vibes of the likes of the Temperance Movement and Blackberry Smoke, though, and instead take their key from something altogether more like Graveyard, Horisont, or Kadavar (and indeed share a label – in Nuclear Blast – with a couple of them).
Their standout difference is singer Elin Larsson, a slightly built young woman she may be, but when she wails her vocals, it creates a feeling not unlike a young Janis Joplin. She really is that good. “Little Sun” – apparently written about her best friend – provides a fragile moment of balladry, which like the rest of their set, is expertly done, while “Devil Man” and Black Smoke” have enough soaring riffs and good, honest soul to keep everyone interested. On this evidence, Blues Pills provide a thrilling panacea.
In truth, though, the glorious support was a just a bonus. Whoever opened we would have been here for Scorpion Child. If you have heard their stunning debut album, you will know why – if not get on board, because these boys are quite something.
They kick off with the first five songs from the record, “Kings Highway” sees singer Aryn Jonathan Black scream “the tension, the tension” like some latter day Robert Plant, while second tune “Polygon of Eyes” sees the slightly built front man switch into full on Ronnie James Dio mode.
Those two songs do rather adequately sum up the band, this is classic rock the way it was not only meant to sound, but rather the way it should sound right now. There is nothing original on show here but it is exactly what is required – a twin guitar attack from lead man Christopher Jay Cowart and his foil on rhythm, Tom “The Mole” Frank, who are more than ably backed up by a rhythm section that is tight as anything there is.
Child deserve more credit than usual for this, given that they are from the country stronghold of Austin, Texas. If this doesn’t come across in the sound, it certainly does in Black’s easy Texan charm. Spotting a young lad in the crowd with a Cult hoodie on, he smilingly explains that they took their name from a Cult song – dedicates the next song to him and away we go, with another brilliant riff and some more soaring vocals.
If you have one of the albums of the year, you can do a lot worse than play it as your live set, and that is effectively what Scorpion Child do tonight. They are called back for an encore and have the decency to be surprised. They need not have been it was well deserved. After it, the instruction from the stage is simple: “It’s Saturday night, let’s get drunk.”
Some do, the rest of us can glory in as real “I was there” moment. Scorpion Child are back on March for a Metal Hammer sponsored jaunt with the mighty Monster Truck, under the banner of “Lords Of The Riff.” Miss it at your peril.