The blues birthed heavy metal, mostly via Led Zeppelin. But even Black Sabbath began as a blues band, the same year Zeppelin formed, but without their influence. So consider it a team effort. Metal and blues rely on similar song structures and a love of prominent guitar. Metal added distortion and a huge drum sound to the blues, as well as vocals that, while as intense as many blues singers, often lacked the vulnerability of the blues. The end result has created two very different musical forms that share a common ancestry.
Matt Pearce is the latest metal practitioner to return to metal’s blues roots. The Voodoo Six guitarist does so on Gotta Get Home, his solo debut, released under the flag of Matt Pearce and the Mutiny. Here, Pearce handles guitar and vocals.
Pearce’s strength lies in his guitar playing. His voice is fine, but thin, sounding something like Joe Walsh. But he hits his notes and gets the song across. The star of the album, though, is his guitar playing, which is melodic and emotive, much more glam rock than blues. The songwriting is also very good on parts of the album, with Pearce sounding most comfortable working in straight-ahead rock and blues.
On “Some People,” Pearce finds a Tom Petty groove, fleshed out with piano (courtesy of Jon Moody) straight out of the Doors “Riders on the Storm,” and lots of interesting, ethereal guitar sounds and textures. All of this loveliness is only enhanced by melodic guitar solos. Pearce’s guitar playing isn’t necessarily emotive but the detachment is what gives the solos so much focus and control. Pearce is trying to craft the perfect part and it’s not so much as what he feels like playing, so much as about what the song requires.
Detachment might make it sound like Pearce is soul-less, but really he’s just meticulous. And there are emotional moments on the album. “Gotta Get Home” is a slide guitar driven blues where it sounds like Pearce is having a blast. It’s also got a poppy chorus and solid background-veering-into-duet-level-presence vocals courtesy of Acantha Lang. “Set Me Free” is another impressive track, with a strong vocal performance from Pearce, more pretty electric piano from Moody, and of course, Pearce’s serious lead lines. The song is catchy, but Pearce also finds a vocal intensity and honesty that pulls the track together.
This is an interesting solo debut that doesn’t sound like Voodoo Six. However, there are some challenges. The tracks are all long; the shortest track is a touch over four minutes and six tracks are over six minutes long. Tightening the songs would strengthen the album. Also, the album’s three weakest songs are the first three, which made this album tough to get through. Once I focused on the final six songs, which are all pretty great, I was able to see the beauty of this album. Pearce is at his best when he’s sharing his vulnerability. Voodoo Six isn’t a particularly vulnerable band, but lead singer Nik Taylor-Stoakes injects emotion into his vocals. Pearce is still working on his voice, but I suspect he’ll get there. But between his thoughtful guitar work and his impressively solid songwriting, I’m curious to see what he and the Mutiny bring to their next album.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Gotta Get Home
– Some People
– Set Me Free
The Big Hit
– Set Me Free
Review by Steven Ovadia