Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins has called together the members of his covers band, Chevy Metal, for a new side project, The Birds of Satan. Using the same line up with Hawkins taking lead vocals as well as drums, Mick Murphy on guitar, and Wiley Hodgen on bass, they have pooled thier musical talents this time, for an album of original prog-rock tracks.
Released through Shanabelle Records, the self-titled debut pays tribute to seventies bands such as Queen, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Aerosmith. Collecting together this varied mix of influences, The Birds of Satan have created an album that, although tied together with a prog-rock thread, is somewhat like a patchwork blanket of classic rock styles. It’s almost like an instructional presentation of the history of rock.
The album opens with an introductory soundscape of drumming overlaid with a random collection of sounds, before crashing straight into the, unsurprisingly, drum-heavy ‘The Ballad of the Birds of Satan’. It’s dirty, grubby rock – rock just as it should be. It’s bikes and oil, it’s truck-stops, it’s greasy bacon sarnies. Sandwiched in the middle is a guitar instrumental that is so intricate it barely seems plausible. At almost 10 minutes long, it feels like a showing-off track, but then, why the hell not? It’s clear they know what they’re doing.
With the rock heritage these guys have, there’s always the danger that they will be too perfect, too polished. But their sound retains those rough edges you want it to have. It could just as easily be played in your mate’s garage as in a sell-out stadium. It knows where its roots are, and it doesn’t snub them.
‘Thanks for the Line’ is the lead single from the album, and it is pure anthemic rock. It’s been updated with some unusual accents and flourishes, but it’s pure and gratuitous rock without any messing around. ‘Pieces of the Puzzle’ is one step heavier, offering a far more metal sound, but it still retains that prog-rock feel, that triumphant stadium-rock feel.
‘Raspberries’ turns the album on its head with a stripped-back ballad which aches for an acoustic version. Bursting into heavier rock choruses, it manages to be nostalgic and energetic in equal measure. ‘Nothing At All’ opens like a pop-punk track before heaping on the layers of metal sounds. Just when you think you have this band figured, they pull another surprise from up their sleeve.
‘Wait Til Tomorrow’ gives a modern twist to retro rock, contemporary in its composition, and undeniably carrying that Foo Fighters sound. But The Birds Of Satan aren’t just regurgitating what you’ve heard before: they’ve gathered up everything they know and taken it to the funfair hall of mirrors, bringing back a version that’s recognisable, but in no way looking the same.
Closing track, ‘Too Far Gone to See’, is a beautifully dark prog-rock ballad which closes the album perfectly and leaves you reaching for the repeat button. But they’re not done with the surprises quite yet, there’s one last twist of the mirror to go.
The Birds of Satan’s debut is everything you could possibly want it to be. They easily live up to the high expectations inevitably demanded of them, and offer up something that honours its ancestry while remaining current and fresh. It’s an absolutely stunning album, and if this is their debut, they better hope they can live up to it.