Monday, October 17, 2011
Corsair – Ghosts of Proxima Centauri
England. 1979. Something was bubbling in the underground. A reaction against punk’s denial of rock and roll, but keeping the punk ethos of D.I.Y energy and effort. The NWOBHM was one of the coolest time periods for rock music as bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon, Samson, Praying Mantis, Tygers of Pan Tang, and others hit the streets in a gutter level assault on the music status quo. Production was raw, vocals were usually gritty and punk-hewn, and the music kicked ass. Forget production values, the energy burned through; the raw need to play music and rock the fuck out. That’s what made the NWOBHM for me.
Once the spark took, it became an inferno. Bands sprouted up everywhere through the UK, then the continent, then USA. Pub mates picked up axes and skins, powered with a couple major riffs, and took to the stage. Demo tapes flew fast and furious. I can only imagine what it was like back then, to be a DJ, or a rock promoter, or even a fan. Every day another demo tape from another band. Some sucked, but some were major-ass cool. I saw a guy on eBay once auction off a whole litter of these demo tapes, random NWOBHM bands all armed with spit, dying to get their music out.
I missed those days. But Corsair is bringing it right back.
In attitude, in DIY effort, in riff-style, songwriting and playing, this is the NWOBHM all over again. Better yet, this is my NWOBHM demo tape (CD). Plucked down onto my desk in its homemade sleeve. Credits and thank you note handwritten in green pen. It doesn’t get much more DIY than this.
But none of that means anything if the music can’t hold up. But it does, oh Lord it does! With a love of Thin Lizzy and their harmony guitars, plus a guitar-case full of classic-styled NWOBHM riffs (think Praying Mantis or Trespass) Corsair have just delivered one of my favorite albums of the year.
“Wolfrider” starts us off with an instrumental that hints at the band’s prowess. Marie Landrain and Paul Sebring man the guitars, bringing us in with a moody, textured opening, as Aaron Lipscombe keeps the beat steady and Jordon Brunk fills out the bottom end. Then, you get it. About a minute in, a lone guitar sears through the mix. Classic tone. Serious late 70’s metal chops. The band breaks it down, riding highs and lows as the song ebbs and flows. It’s a nice intro to some great rock music to follow.
Payday hits with second song, “Warrior Woman.” Is that a Riot riff from 1979? A Praying Mantis outtake? Hell no, it’s Corsair tearing through this driving rocker like prisoners on a jailbreak. Lizzy harmony guitars soar without ever overplaying. Vocals are NWOBHM rough, and I mean that in a good way. Don’t give me operatic wailing over my metal. Give me some meat, some fleshy vocals with texture and grit. Yeah, hit the high notes, but I like my singing to be about the tone, not the overacting. Don’t know who the singer is here, but he hits it perfect.
“Burnish the Blades” reminds me at first of Wild Horses, the old Jimmy Bain band with its start/stop riffing. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite track here, I like Corsair better when they keep a closer eye to melody, but still, for my lost NWOBHM demo tape, it works. “Centurion” is more my flavor. Different singer, but just as fitting. Great harmony leads cutting through the mix like a bike messenger darting through traffic.
“Orca” brings Marie to the microphone which brings a quasi-gothic tone to the riffing. And riff they do. Fingers tear through harmony passages, leaving electric skid marks on the frets. Again, I’m thinking the best of Praying Mantis’ harmony work here, melodic and powerful. “Eyes of God,” finishes it all off with a potent terror.
Through it all, Corsair’s love of playing burns through loud and clear. It’s that passion for the music that makes it all work. Yes, the album is rough. Yes, it’s total DIY and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not many bands can pull it together and put out an effort like this, and I can only hope gaggles of other bands are to follow. Create a new movement.
Corsair aren't from England, they're from Virginia, and this isn't 1979, but still, this is my NWOBHM demo tape. This is the gutter level rock band dropping their tape in my lap and my ears perking up and praising thanks. This is what it’s all about.