Black Smoke Trigger
Set It Off (ep)
Black Smoke Trigger
Black Smoke Trigger is a band from Napier. They took their sound to America – got the legendary Michael Wagener to produce. In the 1970s and 1980s Michael Wagener produced so many of the records you loved or nearly loved – artists from Alice Cooper Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and White Lion through Skid Row, W.A.S.P, Poison and Stryper have benefited from his sound as either an engineer or producer. He even worked his magic for Janet Jackson – her Black Cat single was as rock as she ever got (and features Prince alum Jesse Johnson on the guitar solo and Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt on rhythm).
So, yes, Wagener is present here – he’s worked his magic. But Black Smoke Trigger had to have something to bring to the table for this rather ambitious EP project (available in all formats that matter including a really beautifully produced gatefold vinyl).
And what they have is a fully honed sound – they know exactly what they want to do and how to go about. They also touch on many of the sounds I love from the hard-rock space in the metal spectrum. So opener, Caught In The Undertow, has shades of Soundgarden and Chris Cornell’s solo work, a gnarled, knotty riff unwinds around the song as the bass and drums drive the tune forward, as the vocals steadily climb Mt Anthem. There’s also a super cool video for this song which, if nothing more, further speaks to the ambition of this project. I don’t often care about videos – it’s the music that matters mostly – and maybe I haven’t even cared much about a music video since…well, since Janet Jackson’s Black Cat funnily enough but there’s something in this; a hunger to make all parts of the package. To deliver.
Second track, You Can Have It All has hints of the grunge and nu-metal overlap and then in particular it comes down perfectly split between The Real Thing and Angel Dust-eras of Faith No More. And so I love this song even more.
The legendary Mick Mars steps in to assist on The Way I’m Wired and his distinctive pinched notes and trill fills colour the sound so perfectly. He’s there – so overtly. And yet this is no scene-stealing party-trick. He’s just integrated into the band for this song. He just delivers what the tune requires.
Only Human rounds out side one of the EP (if you’re listening on vinyl, as I am) and it features another grab-bag of perfectly picked hard-rock and metal tropes. I think of Chinese Democracy’s guitar sound (I love that album by the way!)
Side two’s opener bursts from the gates and it’s basically a downhill run as the drums chase the guitars to Paint The World On Fire.
High Or Low has another great crunch of guitar riff and goes further back to the more full-throated threat of 1980s rock and metal. The Cult is a good sonic reference point here. And Black Smoke Trigger do well to be in that temple. The band’s singer, Baldrick, is particularly impressive here – really soaring in the verses.
Blindfolds and Rattlesnakes has another of the tightly coiled riffs guitarist Charlie Wallace loves. He’s clearly a big Zakk Wylde fan and it shows – all over this record in fact. But always with just enough individual flavour; his own sound shining through.
Drummer Josh Te Maro and bassist Dan Fulton make the perfect pocket for this to all sit in – there’s melodic McCartney-isms from the bass on Blindfolds, or is that a Billy Gould (FNM) sound. It’s somewhere right in-between.
A scorching solo drives this song home – echoing some of Slash’s finest widdly-diddly but still understated and immaculate work.
But if you have the vinyl then you effectively get an LP rather than an EP – a bonus track takes this to eight songs and just over half an hour of listening (which is the perfect amount for me, I’ve said it before but I love the mini-album format where it’s not quite a full record but more than an EP.
So the side two closer is Army of One and through a slurry wash of guitars we are reminded of some of hard-rock’s great moments from the 1970s through to the 1990s.