Afterglow is the hard/blues rock supergroup’s 3rd outing together in as many years since the group’s debut in 2010, but despite their swift song writing the group’s previous efforts received a positive reception, and Afterglow proves to be no exception. The Anglo-American group’s well established style of hard and blues rock is expanded upon as the record delves into slightly darker tones and lyrics to mix in with the Deep Purple and Zeppelin influenced infectious riffs and bluesy feel. The album overall shows an advancement of style, but the introduction of metal-inspired aspects may divide opinions. However, if reports of the band’s feuding and imminent break-up do turn out to be true, the aptly named Afterglow will allow the band’s existence to end with prowess and true rock ’n’ roll style.
The album opens blistering with rapid drums supporting matching chords and bass in typical BCC style, ‘Big Train’ with Glenn Hughes’ unique voice completing the sound as expected, but the album only progresses and grows from there. The album eases through the stomping riff of ‘This Is Your Time’ and the Who-esque ‘Midnight Sun’ into the album’s lead single ‘Confessor’. This ballsy, upbeat number – while sitting in an album bathed in variation – sits very firmly in hard rock, but still manages to be one of the stronger tracks, boasting impressive guitar and keyboard solos and a style that makes you want to move, whether you choose tap your feet or throw yourself around in a crowd. The song is ideal as the album’s lead single, while not being the pick of the album it is a strong advert for the band’s style, inspiring memories of the days rock dominated popular music and the uninspiring drone of modern ‘pop’ couldn’t even have been imagined.
The album’s greatest virtue is its variety. Vocals, tone, style and everything in between gets mixed up between or even in songs. Packed with riffs aplenty, virtuoso solos and strong vocals, it could be every inch the typical rock record. But it is not afraid to add in the mellow guitars, gentle tones and sensitivity that many groups would be ashamed to even consider including, whilst mixing in darker lyrics and a stronger sound in other places. The title track ‘Afterglow’ is a perfect example of this, managing to transform between verse and chorus moving from a haunting, almost depressive sound to the heavy riff and shrieking vocals of the chorus. The longest song of the collection ‘The Circle’ also shows a very dark side of Hughes’ lyrical and songwriting style that manages to stay with you even when changing between the contrasting sections of this meaningful number. More blues-influenced sounds are present too, with the only song featuring Bonamassa’s vocals ‘Cry Freedom’, which is graced with duelling vocals from Hughes and Bonamassa which provide yet more diversity to the record.
The effort (whilst sadly making less use of guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s bluesy voice), is more collective than the group’s first two albums, with the drums of Jason (son of Zeppelin drummer John) Bonham and the keys of Derek Sherinian take a more prominent role. This is most evident in the instrumentally focused ‘Common Man’, where the rhythm of the drums provides the backbone for the entire song, while the keyboards also take a step forward linking in with the main riff and having a strong solo. This greater togetherness on the album helps to flush out the sound and bring out a more distinctive impact.
Afterglow is definitely a different experience to the previous two albums Black Country Communion has put together, and this development of style is a welcome one and adds to the sonic repertoire the group is capable of using. The album is short of perfection and not all the songs can quite deliver the same effect as highlights such as ‘Confessor’ and ‘The Circle’, but the record undoubtedly is a strong addition to the catalogue of BCC. Despite the mystery surrounding the future of the band, the record sounds like an effort that looks forward and shows willingness to grow and change. The album is a strong piece, dragging the rapidly ageing style of blues and hard rock into relevance in the 21st century, and hopefully if the group remains together, there is more to come.