Blackfinger – Self-Titled Album Review

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Having departed the legendary doom act Trouble in 2008, Eric Wagner all but disappeared from the public gaze. Taking his time, Eric recruited a band with which to work upon his new material and thus, Blackfinger were born. It took four years of careful work, practice and recording to develop the elven tracks that make up this self-titled record, but the effort was worth it for ‘Blackfinger’ is a beast of a record that will satisfy doom fans with its fuzz-laden riffs and powerfully delivered vocals. However, there is far more here than just the sand-blasted riffs of vintage doom. Eric taps into a rare vein of song-writing that incorporates acoustic beauty, post-punk and even progressive as he mines his own consciousness for inspiration.

Opening with the gentle, downbeat misery of ‘I am Jon’, what surprises is how much Blackfinger draw upon the subtle atmosphere of the UK post-punk scene with Eric Wagner sounding like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Numan and Roger Waters over a backdrop that throbs with Ben Smith’s bass. The restraint shown by the band doesn’t last, however and ‘Yellowood’ sees guitarists Rico Bianchi and Doug Hakes unleashing flaming riffs that hark back to the glory days of Sabbath whilst Larry Piatz lays down a solid rhythmic foundation upon which the song cruises. ‘Why God’ has a neat, palm-muted riff that explodes into violent light during a chorus that tests Larry’s abilities with a series of wild fills, whilst stately solos see the track through to its conclusion. ‘On Tuesday morning’ has a beautiful guitar line that demonstrates a love of the Beatles via the modern-day psychedelia of Screaming trees only for a monstrous riff to suddenly close over the song, blackening the otherwise sunny skies with its unexpected darkness. It’s a powerful, dynamic song, and the contrast between beauty and darkness works well, the musically constantly challenging and surprising the listener. ‘As long as I’m with you’ is even better with a rich cello line adding depth and beauty to Eric’s heart-felt lyrics. It demonstrates a depth and maturity to the compositions that will undoubtedly see these songs standing the test of time and it underscores the wisdom of Eric’s decision to take his time over the album.

‘Here comes the rain’ unleashes the sort of tormented riff that Tony Iommi pioneered, the sound harking back to the very earliest days of Sabbath, only with a production job set to stun, the guitars sounding clean and clear over Larry’s pile-driving percussion. Those looking for a hard rock fix need look no further, for ‘here comes the rain’ delivers with devilish glee. In contrast, ‘Keep fallin down’ is a poignant acoustic lament that wouldn’t sound out of place on Black Label Society’s recent acoustic album, ‘unblackened’. It’s a quite beautifulo effort and it says much of the wide range of inspiration that powers this album. Heading back into heavier realms, ‘my many coloured days’ is pure Ozzy, a taut riff backed by crushing percussion and set off with Eric’s 1000 yard stare, it’s a killer riff and a killer song. One of the album’s highlights,  ‘For one more day’ has a gentle progressive feel that recalls the unassailable beauty of Pink Floyd’s ‘breathe’ only for ‘all the leaves are brown’ to unleash a riff that drinks blood and pisses out gasoline. It’s a hellish contrast that sees the listener floating away from the pastoral tranquillity evoked by ‘for one more day’ towards a city of steel and fire, lit by a hellish glow form the myriad furnaces beckoning you forward. The album closes with ‘Til death do us part’, a dark, mid-tempo groove that sounds like Ozzy fronting Alice in Chains, the awkward timing and angular riffs a final display of the band’s fine musicianship.

Clearly the result of a good deal of time and work, ‘Blackfinger’ does not suffer a single moment wasted. There is no filler here, just eleven perfectly executed songs which sound as lean and hungry as if they had been written by a band just starting out upon a musical career. Eric’s vocals are first class, his hard-edged and gritty tones softened for the ballads and delivered with real power and emotion. The band, meanwhile, provide the perfect backdrop for Eric’s haunting tales and the music here is truly exceptional, drawing upon a wide range of influences whilst still remaining firmly in the doom camp. Quite simply Blackfinger excel on every level and this is an album no doom fiend can be without.

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