(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
“Inspired by all the greats which came before….we were simply born too late!”
Chicago has long been home to an amazing, thriving music scene, one of myriad genres and styles.
From early pioneers like Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke, to classic rock acts like Styx and the city-inspired Chicago, the metal of Cyclone Temple or Lungbrush to the alt. rock of Smashing Pumpkins, the town has seen it all. Among it all, there are two certain types of music that have extremely deep roots embedded into The Windy City, blues and doom.
While there are numerous bands and acts that explore either one or the other, there is also a band that intricately melds both into one cohesive sound. Of course I am talking about Black Road and the quartet at the heart of this dark sojourn, singer Suzi Uzi, guitarist Tim Morano, bassist Casey Papp and drummer Robert Gonzales.
Since the band’s formation in 2015, they have worked hard to establish themselves and rise above the din. Constantly gigging locally, networking and undertaking all that comes with both, Black Road have prepped themselves to elevate to a pivotal perch within the scene. That ascension will undoubtedly be bolstered by the official release of their new self-titled EP, which dropped on October 6th (CD via Bloodrock Records, Cassette & Vinyl via DHU Records).
The six songs on Black Road provide an amalgamation of rock, heavy blues, psychedelic rock, doom, metal, jazz, funk, and folk components. All are blended in such a way that they yield an interestingly diverse palette, but flow with fluid cohesion. One of the definitive strong points of this effort is the expanse of sonic territories staked out and then developed to their fullest potential.
The major basis from which all else is constructed upon is the aforementioned blues and doom. That could not be more evident than on the opening number “From Hell” which, after an isolated fuzzy bass line intro, explodes with one of Morano’s sinister six-string statements. Slow and so very much Iommian in style, it provides a slow grooving pulse as the rhythm section gets into the mix.
It is the perfect vehicle for Suzi Uzi‘s raspy, matter-of-fact vocalizations. All unite to render a plodding, pulsating transmission that gradually builds steam, then finds its release with some outright jamming. It’s the perfect segue into the galloping heaviness at the start of “Bloody Mary“, a chugging number that forcibly pushes right along. It keeps itself chunky and tight, right in the pocket with the playing as Suzi belts out the title character’s horrific tale… all while Tim delivers some fret-smoking solos along the way.
Speaking of horror, the instrumental cut “Morte” is a stage-setting composition, one exuding feelings of a frightful carnival-like vibe. Somber piano, acoustic guitar and minimalist string accompaniment send quite a haunting message. When it becomes electrified in “Morte (Coda)” (also an instrumental), a more palpable sense of urgency holds your attention. I found it easy to imagine images of psychotic, homicidal clowns and other deranged miscreant circus characters parading about during this pair of tracks.
Yet soon enough, all of that is dispelled as the upbeat beginning, get-down boogie of “Red” unfurls. It’s energetic and funky, and just as you’re getting more and more into it, Morano & Co. abruptly detonate one of the heaviest riffs and rhythms to grace this recording. Suzi keeps the verse’s vocals straightforward for the most part. The fuzzened doom of the music itself is outstanding, seemingly simple, but densely shuddering nonetheless. Things pick up in intensity at times and subsequently, as do the vocals for a prominent build up near song’s end.
The sixth and final selection left is perhaps the most poignant track of all, the almost ten and half-minute “Black Rose“. It unfolds with a peacefully melodic, tranquil intro section that allows Tim to control the setting, and that is exactly what he does for the first three minutes plus. Soon, bass lines walk in, they are then followed by the drums and lightly airy, crooned vocals.
Near the five-minute point, things take a turn into a much darker, more ominous territory. The vocals become increasingly harrowing at times, then offset with lighter inflections, as the guitars and rhythm section keep things on a steady pace. It all continues to roll with an ebb and flow feeling while the guitar just rips away until things eventually seem to slowly wane.
Once they have waned, you are left with the overwhelming desire to press Play again and embark upon this journey a second time. The intensity of this blues ‘n doom deluge is a testament to the tenacity of Black Road themselves. Their determination to set themselves apart from the pack and mark their spot within the scene has come to fruition with their self-titled EP. Set your feet, and ears, upon the Black Road path via the Bandcamp embed below.