Nine years ago I got into BLACK WATER RISING completely by accident. Their killer track “Brother Go On” was the only bright spot on a 2008 CD sampler I was given from Metal Edge and I was instantly hooked. I also had the privilege of interviewing guitarist/vocalist Rob Traynor when A&GS was in its infancy in 2013. He couldn’t have been cooler, and I think it turned out pretty okay. Later that summer the band released their outstanding sophomore record Pissed and Driven that still gets a ton of play here at A&GS HQ. Now it’s 2017 and the guys have seen fit to drop album number three Electrified (out now, Pavement Entertainment) into our laps.
“Sooooooo, how is it?!?” you’re probably asking. Well, consider it a series of ups and downs, but mostly ups. The album didn’t hit me right away like the first two. This was more of a grower, and quite frankly, with each passing spin I find something I didn’t notice before, whether it be good or bad. So let’s start with what I DID like, yeah? “Reality Check” has a meaty, dirty riff and sexy wah work courtesy of Traynor and fellow axeman Dennis Kimak, and the overall groove is punchy as all hell. Bassist Oddie McLaughlin and drummer Mike Meselsohn bring some serious bottom end and groovalicious drum work to the fray, too. Plus Traynor nails it on the vocals.
Now we come to my absolute favorite tune on this disc and one of my new favorites in the band’s arsenal, “Don’t Wait Up.” Know how you get a record sometimes and there’s that one song you have to play eleventy-million times before moving on? This is one of them. It’s catchy, and sugary sweet without being light or pop. It’s just a really well-written number with a rib-sticking quality that elevates it to BWR HOF (BLACK WATER RISING Hall of Fame) status. “Higher” is fast-paced and high-energy, and you can really tell the band is hitting their stride over these last three tracks after a just-OK opener (“Obey”) and not-great third song in “Payback.”
Another early gem on the record is “The Answer.” It’s got some serious balls and a kickass chorus. “Foolish Pride” really showcases that Les Paul crunch these guys are known for, and it brings to the table a great balance of ballsy and catchy. “Buried In Black” is an asskicker that I can totally see thriving in a live setting, and then things take a completely unexpected turn with closer “World of Frustration.” The story plays out on the acoustic guitars and it is such a thing of beauty I really found myself getting lost in the vibe. I was really thrown for a loop with this track, but in pleasant fashion.
So what have we learned? We’ve learned that Electrified is a good, solid rock record from BLACK WATER RISING. Is it as good as its predecessor? In a word, no. There are some moments that don’t quite measure up, but none of them are cringe-worthy, thank the Gods. As I said before, on this album there are ups and downs (mostly ups), good and not-so-good (mostly good), but at the end of the day a band can only do what they do: plug in, play their hearts out, and hope that the fans dig it. And I’m sure they will. Because I did, and I’m a big fan. And there are quite a few songs I’d like to see included in the set if I’m ever lucky enough to catch them live again.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Don’t Wait Up”, “World of Frustration”, “Higher”, “The Answer”, “Reality Check”