It’s been a surprisingly long wait for the debut album by Hertfordshire trio Verra Cruz given that their first two, promising singles emerged back in 2004. In that time, they have undergone something of a name-change (well they’ve dropped the “The”) and – reading between the lines – have suffered various record company shenanigans.
The result is that the momentum they were building, particularly Stateside, appears to have been somewhat demobilised and Emancipation Day is being released with neither fuss nor fanfare.
Which is a shame because, whilst they are still searching for that über-massive hook that could define their musical existence, Verra Cruz possess much that is likeable and play a mix of grungy, heavy-ish rock with smooth melodic tendencies that is worth more than a few moments of a Yank-o-phile’s ear-time.
Opener Cold That You Feel is a case in point, bursting straight out with a Seattle-meets-Led Zeppelin feel before Marc James’ expressive, bluesy vocals step in for the held back verses. It’s like Audioslave if they’d tried harder on their last album and as such is no slouch of a song.
There’s strong (though seldom stratospheric) quality elsewhere too, with recent single Guns In The Distance catchy, chunkily-riffed and featuring some vocal “whoo-oohs” à la The Rolling Stones; Storm Will Come grooving loudly and head-shakingly; and the energetic Soul Collides finishing in soaring fashion.
Several of the songs are punctuated by James’ lap steel guitar, a trick that not only shows some creativity and shows off the frontman’s undoubted six-string prowess, but helps add intensity to the likes of Hell Hound.
And, of course, given Verra Cruz’s patent penchant for Americana, there’s semi-acoustic, soaring arena rock in the shape of Rise and a plaintive acoustic album closer in Lead Me, whose delicate refrain of “Oh LORD, won’t You take my hands / I wanna be in the place where You are” gives it a Gospel air.
Verra Cruz certainly have the musical skill, imagination and enough above-average songs to warrant a shot in the spotlight. Now all they need is some publicity. Give ’em a go.