Inspired by the sound and gothic imagery of early delta blues icons Robert Johnson and Son House and heavy rock pioneers Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, The Cold Stares are an Indiana-based act on a steady rise in recent years. Formed in 2009 by guitarist/vocalist Chris Tapp and drummer Brian Mullins, the band has established a firm reputation in blues rock listening circles thanks to a number of successful tours and well-received studio albums. While their thick, robust wall of sound often challenged the limitations of their minimalist two-piece anatomy, the group has recently added a third element in the form of bassist Bryce Klueh. Now structured in the classic power trio format, the group has just released Voices, their latest studio album.
Produced by Mark Needham (Taj Mahal, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Walk the Moon, Fleetwood Mac) and recorded almost in its entirety in just two days, the 13-track Voices combines the group’s trademark blues-based, stoner-tinged hard rock sound with added softer textures, being arguably more eclectic than their previous offerings.
The rocker “Nothing But The Blues” and its fuzzed-out, muscular riffs open the album, showcasing the band tightly locked in a full-on attack from the get-go. “Come For Me” plays out with similar weight while the somewhat psychedelic love ballad “The Joy” focuses more on atmosphere and nuance. The moody, dreamy, and southern-influenced “Sorry I Was Late” also provides a break from the group’s concrete-like riffage and has Tapp channeling Gregg Allman and his soulful inflections.
A tale of heartbreak, the title track returns with the heavyweight riffs but this time combined with an instantly catchy structure and chorus. Equivalently heavy but a bit less accessible, the ominous proto-doom monolith “Waiting On The Rain” is also a highlight.
We’re then treated to another pause from the beefy heavy blues proceedings with the evocative acoustic number “Throw That Stone”, which has a strong neo-western ambiance that capitalizes on superbly haunting vocals. Built around a remarkable bouncy riff, The funk rock number “It’s Heavy” is another standout, unconventionally but effectively combining an upbeat musical structure with incisive, pessimistic lyricism drenched in political commentary. Revisiting the structure of “Throw That Stone” and concluding the album, The somber, aptly titled acoustic piece “The Ghost” is modern southern gothic at its best, conducted by Tapp’s heavy-hearted vocal delivery.
An excellent follow-up to Heavy Shoes (2021), Voices is a well-crafted and mature affair, blending potent, mammoth-like riffage with more delicate, meditative moments and making the most out of the band’s newborn possibilities as a trio. For both newcomers and those already familiar with the group, it’s a must listen.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Nothing But The Blues
– Sorry I Was Late
– Waiting On The Rain
– Throw That Stone
– The Ghost
The Big Hit
Buy the album: Amazon