In an increasingly divided genre that sees new subgenres spring up all the time, it’s refreshing to see a band returning to the roots of the genre to play some no-nonsense rock and roll. Dublin’s Samarkind, formed just 12 months ago in 2016 and featuring vocalist David P. Byrne (Assassin, Friday’s Child) and guitarist Michal Kulbaka (Lancelot Lynx), are stripping the genre back to its bare essentials - heavy grooves and a massive dose of the blues for good measure and are bringing anyone they can along for the ride.
Their debut self-titled album garnered plenty of buzz with the release of lead single ‘Sun Stroke Heart’, a rollicking, heavy blues number that opens with a monumental hook and gleefully stomps through just over three minutes. Samarkind sounds like the result of mixing Clutch, Black Stone Cherry and a hefty amount of Americana, all funnelled into just over half an hour of saccharine-sweet, radio friendly classic rock. Opener ‘Black Rain’ fades in with an interesting choice - humming - before the riffs proper decide to introduce themselves. It’s a slow start, albeit one that merely eases in, before it truly lets rip around the 1:45 mark with the kind of snare oft employed in more country-esque circles, later moving into a solo that really wouldn’t be out of place on a Clutch record, all swagger and self-assured.
Setting the scene immediately after is the one-two punch of ‘Sun Stroke Heart’, a more mid-paced affair and ‘Skinny Rivers’ that features a recurring guitar lick that’s straight out of Stevie Wonder’s playbook, injecting the track with a huge amount of funk. There’s the requisite ballad too, of course, in ‘Good Man Call’, a real slow burner, bringing real melancholy and an out-of-place spoken word passage that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Fortunately the guitar solos more than make up for the minor lapse in judgement. It also acts as a nice respite, slowing proceedings down before the band pick up again for the second act.
Samarkind is a remarkable album for a band so new; songwriting chops are top notch and the blues element underpins the album with an infectious element of fun and raw rock ‘n’ roll spirit. The musicianship is top-notch, especially the guitars that drive the album forwards. It’s a rare thing to find such a well-crafted debut, and is highly recommended hearing.
Highlights: Skinny Rivers, Fire and Blood