Considering that it was arguably the UK that first spawned blues inspired heavy metal it can be quite surprising to find that most of the bands making a good fist of recreating the early days of the genre are either European or from the States. This then, is where young pups 1968 – named after the year some of their favourite albums were released – need to come in and restore some of our great nations credibility in the classic rock stakes!
So do 1968 succeed? Well, the answer is yes….and no. For a group of lads so in thrall to the arse end of the 60’s their sound is surprisingly contemporary and not at all the kind of throwback we were expecting. Instead, their sound is firmly rooted in modern alternative rock with nods here and there to the likes of Black Sabbath and Corrosion Of Conformity.
Fortuna Havana, their sophomore EP, kicks off with “Vorpal” which builds slowly in intensity from a beautiful, woozy guitar line until the riffs and drums come crashing in. Throughout the four tracks on offer here drummer Tom Drury (now departed) does his best Bill Ward impression; never content to play a simple beat, he adds a hefty dollop of swing to each song with imaginative fills and time keeping. Credit to him too for judicious use of cowbell on “Fortuna Havana”, which of course automatically enhances the greatness of any song tenfold! “War Dogs”, which is possibly the strongest track on offer, also gives guitarist Sam Orr plenty of room to freak out and indulge in some Iommi worship during his solos.
Credit must also go to vocalist Jimi Ray who has a hint of Chris Cornell in his husky delivery but can also unleash a soulful yet leonine roar that’s up there with the best the 70’s had to offer, the man truly has a great set of pipes and his delivery is top notch at all times .
So there we have it then, a promising release from a group of lads that should have a bright future ahead of them. While not quite the classic rock fest we were expecting, 1968 have shown that they know how to write good tunes and play to their strengths. If they can keep this form up for their debut, which is tentatively due later in the year, then they should have a very bright future ahead of them indeed. 8/10