'Tattooed On My Brain' album review: Nazareth are still rocking hard 50 years into their career
The Scottish classic rockers Nazareth return with a new vocalist in the form of Carl Sentance for their 24th studio album, an outright classic rock assault
There are very few bands that can boast of having been around for half a century. Among those, the handful that still roll out original material are even fewer, and fewer still are those that still actively tour. One band that can proudly check all three from the list are Scottish hard rock pioneers Nazareth who celebrate their 50th anniversary as a band this year with their 24th studio album (that's 24 original LPs - no compilations) 'Tattooed On My Brain', their first record to be released under the Frontiers Music label.
With the new album comes a new lineup for Nazareth. Most noticeably missing is vocalist Dan McCafferty, who retired in 2013 due to health issues. Filling in for McCafferty is frontman Carl Sentance, formerly of Persian Risk and the Geezer Butler Band. Longtime member Jimmy Murrison is on guitars, joined by the only original member of the band, Pete Agnew, on bass. Pete's son Lee Agnew completes the lineup on drums.
Sentance, who has songwriting credits for five out of the thirteen tracks, definitely brings a whole new feel to the classic rockers. His contribution stands out immediately on 'Never Dance With The Devil', a sludgy album opener with plenty of distorted guitars and steady, thumping percussions which allows the new frontman to showcase his gritty, powerful vocals — a far cry from McCafferty's signature tenor voice. The new addition brings some spice to Nazareth's sound and fans are sure to get behind the new flavor.
The new sonic direction is even more evident on the title track which harkens back to the punk era with its choppy beats and fuzzy guitars, held together by Sentance's crisp delivery. Longtime fans who expect to see something along the lines of the classic Nazareth records like 'Razamanaz' or 'Hair of the Dog' won't find any of that here, and for good reason.
It's 2018 and Nazareth have adapted to the times, shaking up the status quo by incorporating a range of sub-genres and taking a new approach while still remaining true to their rock roots.
While the band still doesn't take any drastic risks with the new record, the songwriting, which is typically rock-oriented, is pretty solid. The slightly off-kilter but menacing guitars on 'State of Emergency' aptly reflects the confusion and desperation of the present times. Meanwhile 'Rubik's Romance' is a classic rock ballad that, while displaying some of the classic elements of their older works, still keeps a tempo that is faster than the usual Nazareth slow-burner.
As bassist Pete Agnew revealed to Meaww in an exclusive interview, the song was the result of an old demo that Agnew dug up while working on the new project and juxtaposes the complexity of human relationships to that of a Rubik's cube.
Other highlights from the album include the early single 'Pole to Pole', which has a slight AC/DC-like vibe with its rollicking riffs and high-energy vocals. The guitar solo is a testament to Murrison's still sharp form and the track adds much flair to an already hard-hitting album. 'Push' is another standout track with its bluesy, old-school feel and edgy lyricism, enhanced by a sing-along friendly chorus that would be perfect for a back-and-forth between the band and the crowd during their upcoming live performances through Europe.
Even with a total play time of 52 minutes, 'Tattooed On My Brain' is much shorter than its predecessor, 2014's 'Rock 'n' Roll Telephone' and keeps things crisp and interesting without losing focus at any given moment. Overall, the album is an out-and-out hard rock album.
'Tattooed On My Brain' is a sign of a band that is very comfortable in its own skin and the new lineup is as tight as ever. For new listeners, it could easily be shocking to learn that the album follows a 50-year legacy. Half a century into their career, Nazareth is still rocking hard and showing no signs of slowing down. They've established themselves as a mainstay in the constantly morphing landscape of rock, proving to fans yet again that this is a band that is looking only one way — forward.
Apple Music and Spotify subscribers can stream the album in full below: