Record review: Bella Clava – Holy Crow (Grade: C)

Delivers on danceability, but lacks in passion.

Holy Crow is a record that begs anyone and everyone to dance. A vintage tinged modern rock album that borrows just as much from mainstays Aerosmith and the Doors as it does  Them Crooked Vultures and Buckcherry. They have a solid groove they’re not afraid to show off, which makes this a very dynamic and fun listen, albeit inessential.

You’ll notice right away that the interplay between the guitar and keys is very well executed – they don’t mind taking a backseat to one another in order to maximize their effectiveness, and when they follow one another (such as in Loose Screw), it’s playful and sounds great. The band’s use of breakdowns and loud-quiet-loud dynamics tips a hat to the more accessible later-era grunge, and mostly makes for a pretty reasonable pay off. But had they not taken this approach as far as they did, it would’ve made each instance stand out far more. The rhythm section holds it down with very capable and punchy drumming, but the bass seems to typically follow the chord progressions, and is often buried in the mix. The lyrics are standard rock and roll fare: “I saw a spark in you that set my soul on fire,”  “Help me out before I start to freak out,” are just a few examples of this. Both the lead and backup vocal performances are excellent despite this, and seem to play a musical role rather than that of a vehicle for personal expression or the airing of dirty laundry, which suits the record just fine.

Unless listening through small speakers with a proper equalization setting, the mix is uneven throughout. Blue Star Tattoo for example uses an excellent back up vocal in the pre-chorus, but drowns out the lead vocal to the point of making it difficult to pick up on the lyrics. Listening with headphones was a little bit of a mess.

This record is more a showcase than a mission statement, which for a debut record may not be the best approach. They have their priorities straight for the most part – nothing is too technical, and tends to always serve the song rather than noodle about. Loose Screw and War Brides are great displays of the potential this band has to make great rock and roll music. But there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to their sound, which detracts from the bombast and charisma they seem to otherwise have in spades, and unfortunately, that makes all the difference.

Grade: C

(Hi gang! I’m André, and I’m new to the record review game. Please comment and let me know how I’m doing.)

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