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Music Review: Shudderwall – Shudderwall

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Eurorock is at home in France today, exploring Shudderwall a band from Nice in the sunny south. The trio is a family affair of two brothers, Christophe (guitar) and Emmanuel (main vocals, drums), and their sister Florence (bass). Having played the local bars and clubs around the lovely Cote d’Azur region they took the plunge and recorded a demo.

They sent it far and wide in the hope that someone would give it a play. Then none other than respected San Francisco based producer Scott Mathews responded and contacted the band. Not only that, he made arrangements to fly over from California to Nice and work with them.

Grammy award winning Mathews has worked with an impressive stellar cast list that includes Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, David Bowie, Ry Cooder, and The Beach Boys. It reads like a who’s who of anyone who has ever been a who!

When you add to that George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roy Orbison, John Lee Hooker, Brian Wilson, and Barbra Streisand, you begin to trust the man’s judgment and appreciate Sudderwalls excitement at the prospect of working with him.

He arrived in August (always a good time to go to Nice) and set to work with the band on the eleven tracks that now appear on this, their self titled, debut. He completed the mixing and mastering back home in San Francisco. Since its first digital appearance in January 2008 the band has clocked an impressive 300,000 plus plays on their MySpace and boast over 30,000 fans.

Big on the France live circuit, they also regularly play the UK and Italy. They have even followed their album to California. They have even followed their album to California and played gigs there too.

So what did Scott hear in that demo? The band sounds like their name. A wall of shuddering sound, heavy on drama and loaded with intensity. They are also a band who are not afraid to take risks and defy any perceived trend.

One of things that must have struck Scott was this freedom of expression within the tracks they sent him. There is a deep lying power and freedom of thought that ventures boldly into dark metal territory. It is a diverse and intriguing album that mixes light and dark, power and subtlety, and it is all delivered on a bed of raw emotion.

It is clear that their desire to remain as ‘uninfluenced as possible’ has resulted in an album that explores many of their diverse musical paths. They do however list the likes of Metallica, Nirvana, and Rage Against The Machine. Curiously and revealingly they also add The Beatles and Ben Harper to the list.

Scott Mathews was clearly intrigued enough to want to hear more. It goes without saying that he has done a characteristically superb job in capturing the very essence of this band.

Distributed on Believe, one of the leading European digital distribution companies, Shudderwall now hope to raise their profile in the U.S. Meanwhile, several dates in the U.K. throughout June have already been scheduled and the band hope to get back over to the States as soon as possible.

This album defies any attempts at categorisation and despite playing it many times it reveals a little more of itself with each play. Opening with a highly effective “Alone In The Dark” it creates a vibe set nicely amid the contrasting male/female voices and an extremely well written song. Scott Mathews has added some interesting production which lifts the track even further. The guitar slices in, Slash style, and the result is an impressive opening.

Immediately the band take an alternative step with “Grudge”. A dark, riff powered, contagious track. The first four tracks manage to underline a lot of what prompted Scott to jump on a flight to France. Next up they take it a step further with “Not Your Way”. It’s that mixture of light and dark that really empowers their music, with this being a solid example.

The cloying darkness of “Just Try To” is a real highlight. Emmanuel’s slightly French accented vocals succeed in adding to the mystique. “Dangerous Minds” takes us even deeper as Emmanuel delivers the growls. When “The World Is So Grey” starts you could be excused for thinking that your multi disc CD player must be on shuffle. Such is their diversity.

This track catches their strength. Huge mists of atmosphere and dark corners radiate from the simple acoustic backing proving again that you just can’t second guess Shudderwall. The growlingly angry “Self Judgement” disturbingly leads to the deceptive opening of “In These Strange Days”. It’s Peter Hammill meeting with Sabbath crossed with the bastard offspring of some sinister metal band. Shudderwall indeed.

Florence’s vocals add that splash of intrigue, along with light and contrast. This isn’t a band to take the easy road and you can easily become locked in, not knowing what is coming next. A short but disturbingly powerful “The Doors We Hide” leads to“Not More Than A Silence” which carries on the vibe. A more chilled “It Doesn’t Hurt Me” bring it all to an abrupt end.

Scott Mathews’ intrigue was clearly pricked by what he heard. He certainly has an ability to separate the unique from the also-rans. The band meanwhile has the courage and determination to be themselves and to do what the hell they like.

This definitely isn’t the rather cozy family gathering shown on the cover and suggests that maybe it isn’t so nice in Nice after all. Instead they have delivered an album that defies neat pigeon holes or cozy categorization. As a result you have something which, if played in a darkened room with headphones, scares the proverbial hell out of you. Believe me. it’s true. I did it.

Find out more and listen for yourself on Shudderwalls MySpace page.

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About Jeff Perkins