Barring an almighty geographical upheaval and land mass reshape that’s likely to signal the end of humanity, it’s severely difficult for mountains to disappear from sight but you could be forgiven for losing track of these particular Nine Black Alps since their thoroughly enjoyable, if derivative, debut long player Everything Is in 2005.
It will come as a shock to some that since their impressive emergence within a new wave of grunge – on this side of the Atlantic at least – Sam Forrest and co have released a further three studio albums. Love/Hate followed in 2007, with 2009’s Locked Out From The Inside gaining notoriety by being given away free for the first two months of its life. A middling effort, Sirens, completes their career to date output, arriving in 2012.
Comparisons with Nirvana were plentiful for the Manchester outfit, initiating upon their formation in 2003, although Forrest has declared that these comparisons were misleading; however, judging by latest album Candy For The Clowns (this time produced by the band themselves) the similarities are obvious and likely to resurface once again.
Teaser videos have been surfacing on Youtube to give a taste of the new effort and the first single Novokaine emerged in October last year: screeching, grunge heavy guitars thunder into earshot as the band set their stall out somewhere between the aforementioned Nirvana and the poppier, more melodic rock of Ash to notch up one of the best moments on the entire album.
Driving guitars carry Blackout along like a juggernaut, instantly memorable riffage introducing the repetitive chorus of “here comes the blackout, baby”. After more melodic guitars and thumping percussion open second single Supermarket Clothes, another poppier effort is chalked up which leans towards Ash territory once more without quite invading their patch. In fact, with Forrest’s vocals occasionally bearing a little resemblance to Liam Gallagher there’s also similarities with Oasis’ heaviest moments.
Unsurprisingly, it’s actually the numbers that walk a different path to their grunge and rock forebears and peers that create the most lasting impression; unfortunately they’re few and far between with the catchy four note falling arpeggiated vocal harmony of Morning After helping the track to the status of best track in this collection. The softer Take Me Underground is another welcome break from the grungetastic onslaught, its simple two-note bounce doing enough to warrant repeated plays while album closer Clown benefits from another of those catchy choruses to represent a further highlight.
Patti is another slice of sludge heavy grunge, the chorus sounding a little too much like Nirvana for comfort but it’s another sledgehammer of rock nonetheless, as is the similarly heavy plus catchy chorus of Come Back Around. A dirty, distorted bass line introduces Something Else and any lingering Gallagher similarities disappear on the chorus line of “so shine the light on me”, where shine actually sounds like shine and not “shee-iiiiiiiiine”.
Things start to become a bit samey three quarters of the way through the album, Not In My Name built around a heavy riff but sounding fairly average as are the scrawling guitars of Destroy Me. But with a dozen or so UK shows coming up, there’s enough here for grunge fans in particular to seek out those dates; enjoy the strengths of a still relevant and entertaining rock band – even if it means dusting off your copy of Everything Is to remind yourself both who Nine Black Alps were, and still are.