Having released two EPs, one of which was the stunning ‘the simplicity of the riff is key’, Grifter were deservedly bought to the attention of Ripple, a label specialising in blues and stoner rock and who have been responsible for bringing some truly great gems to the table (Fen, Poobah and JPT Scare band to name a few). The collaboration was destined to be a success from the start and the Plymouth-based combo responded to the challenge of sharing a label with some bona-fide musical legends by upping the ante and putting all their fire and fury into eleven hard rocking gems that reference everything from Sabbath to Cathedral via a delightfully chunky production sound that renders the bands swampy, heavy blues in brutal clarity.
Opening with ‘good day for bad news’ the bands modus operandi is immediately clear – storming riffs, lock-tight but groove-laden rhythm section and tuneful, memorable vocals courtesy of guitarist Ollie who has the sort of voice that any aspiring blues singer would kill for and an ungodly skill on the guitar that makes him sound like four people playing at once. Witness the sliding centrepiece of ‘good day’, or indeed try and get the chorus out of your head, and you’ll be instantly hooked on a band who have absorbed a wide array of influences and churned them together to make something wholly their own. Next track ‘Alabama hotpocket’ is no less inspirational with a huge grinding riff, massed vocals and driving beat creating a sound so thick you find yourself unconsciously swatting away the mosquitoes you are sure must be flying around you. Winner of the best title, not to mention most propulsive percussion, is the tub-thumping genius of ‘asshole parade’ which sees Foz’s toms taking a serious amount of stick while the guitars fizz and burn and Ollie turns in the sort of performance that wouldn’t sound out of place on the early black Sabbath albums – an achievement indeed and one that Grifter frequently justify and even surpass over the course of this excellent debut.
Having set the scene the band are unwilling to let their foot of the gas and ‘strip club’ has a beautifully sleazy, blues feel to it that leaves you feeling ever so slightly dirty before the mighty ‘young blood, old veins’ takes things on a darker, deeper turn with a huge grinding riff and rock solid rhythm from Foz and bassist Phil. ‘Bucktooth woman’ is a track featuring hand-claps and a riff that’s as addictive as crack that oozes charisma while ‘preacher and the devil’ effortlessly maintains the feel of a classic rock band belying the fact that Grifter are a band unleashing their debut upon the world. Indeed so tight are the band that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d been in the business since the seventies and while the production has plenty of bottom end and depth it’s also satisfyingly raw eschewing the over-digitised sound of many modern acts. ‘Bean’ is a storming track with a killer riff that is gloriously simple while Ollie growls over the top like a preacher on heat. The brilliantly titled ‘piss and gas’ is a revved-up slice of road-rock with propulsive driving feel that practically demands you get up and dance before the slippery riffs of ‘unwelcome guest’ take over your consciousness as one of the highlights of this fine album while Ollie howls the classic line “I won’t drink your water but I sure will drink your wine…” Final track ‘gone blues’ sees the band take their foot off the pedal for the first, and only, time over the course of the record for a beautifully stripped down finale that recalls the grizzled atmosphere of Tom Waits and provides a perfect ending for a wonderful and engaging record.
With ‘the simplicity of the riff is key’ Grifter laid down a solid foundation for what was to come. Nonetheless, while expectations were high, no one could have predicted quite how good Grifter’s debut full-length album was going to be and if there’s any justice this will see people abandoning the likes of Black Stone Cherry in their droves for a band who are infinitely better at crafting swampy, authentic blues rock with a metal edge. This is quite simply an astounding, tuneful, memorable debut crammed with energy, riffs and attitude and if you like classic rock and metal then this is for you – a brilliant record from one of the UK’s best up-and-coming bands, show your support and buy this excellent record, there is no question that you’ll be glad you did – a phenomenal work.