Let’s get one thing out in the open from the very start. The Voodoo Six album First Hit For Free is the best new album I have heard in a long while. Let me explain.
London’s Voodoo Six are in fact five. The six title comes from the sixth card in Voodoo Tarot – Legba (the Devil). Don’t let that put you off, and if you fancy a dance with the devil in the pale moonlight – then this is right up your street. The album was originally released in 2006 under a different guise but the usual mind numbingly difficult problems with labels led to it going off like a damp squib. Not this time – not on your life.
Repackaged – re-mastered and re-released – as I’ve said this is quite simply the best new release I have heard in a long while. I am not the only person to hold that opinion either. None other than Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris — what better judge — says just that too.
There is a dilemma when reviewing a band such as Voodoo Six. The temptation is to go rattling on about influences and who they sound like. In some respects that is a compliment, but in others in can distract from the band itself. The best compliment I can write is that Voodoo Six are Voodoo Six, a band in their own mighty right, and will, I have no doubt, be quoted in reviews of future bands who will site them as their own influence. So let’s lay the comparisons aside and look at the band first.
Bass player Tony Newton, the man responsible for rattling my windows yesterday during the albums first play of many, has been at this point before. His previous band, Dirty Deeds, was signed to Steve Harris’s Beast label – they released three albums but, like many others, drifted apart.
It had, up until then, been a story straight out of Robert Johnson’s fateful meeting at those famous crossroads. Tony, a keen footballer, strolled into the dressing room on a local football pitch only to see Maiden’s Steve Harris sitting there. Steve and Tony formed a formidable partnership in attack and became great friends. When Dirty Deeds folded, Tony knew exactly where he wanted to go next and set about forming Voodoo Six.
Getting the essential elements together proved difficult. He ended up auditioning over fifty singers, but somehow he tapped into a formula that not only works but has that additional magical ingredient so often missing in the rock world — an x-factor, if you will. He drafted experienced guitarist Matt Pearce and teamed him in a ferocious twin guitar pairing with Chris Jones. Drummer Dave ‘Grav’ Cavill arrived to supply his own incredible power to the mix, and all that was needed now was a vocalist. Enter the rock find of recent years, Henry Rundell.
Tiring of hearing singers that just didn’t have that Voodoo Six sound, Tony turned to a friend who manages bands and he quickly recommended Rundell. The problem was that he had shaved all his hair off. Within seconds he was in and, as moves go, this one proved to be totally inspirational. Henry, now sporting hair and seen on stage with his face painted light and dark, an echo of Legba the sixth tarot card, is truly sensational.
Somehow he manages to be heard above some of the most powerful rock around. This isn’t racket by any stretch. These are well crafted, haunting, and most importantly memorable songs performed by a band who have either been at those same old crossroads and sold their souls to be able to come up with this, or are just an extremely talented and potentially major rock band.
Just how a young Henry Rundell, fresh from a classical music background, found he could scream like this is beyond me – unless of course he was attacked by vampires as he slept. But scream he can like the best of them, metal god Rob Halford included.
The album opens with a newer track “Faith,” setting the scene perfectly for everything to come. If this doesn’t stir you from a summer stupor I don’t know what will. “Faith just fades away,” Henry sings. But faith in this band won’t – that’s for sure.
It is these light and dark textures that power through the set with the twin guitars providing purely awesome riffs, breaks, and, yes, drama. This is hard rock at its best, remixed by legendary engineer Mike Fraser whose CV includes none other than the likes of AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Thunder, and the brief Coverdale/Plant combination, amongst others. Clearly he knows a thing or two when he hears it and gladly put his name to Voodoo Six.
I am not going to dissect this album track by track in any great detail. They are all strong. My advice is, quite simply, just to get out there and get a copy. Rundell really starts to show what he can do during “No Friend Of Mine” with a Halford-esque scream, backed by a riff to literally die for. This opens out into an exchange between the twin guitars that will have you reaching for the replay button before you realise you are only actually on track two. Feed My Soul was the original name of the album back in 2006. Another superb riff contains the line “we’re gonna make the formula” – and that is exactly what Tony Newton and V6 have done.
“Walking On Nails” shifts gears slightly before opening out into V6 territory once again. “Crawl” showcases the twin guitars superbly. By the time you reach “I Am The Sun” there is something strangely hypnotic about the experience. It is intoxicating whilst almost flirting with danger. It is that sixth tarot card put to music and everything hard rock should be. “Saints & Sinners” slows us down and produces a memorable track. “One More Day” brings Tony Newton’s bass to the forefront in another track of trademark power.
The epic “Mistaken” has a wonderfully crafted acoustic entrance before you gallop into the wind with the devil on your shoulder. It is a highlight among highlights. The album doesn’t lose any pace or effect as it comes to an end through “Shine On,” “Century,” and “Slip Inside,” which brings this classic release to a close.
This is a must have, must play and play again album. I am sure that the live act, which I haven’t yet experienced (I will soon put that right), will not disappoint. There is that combination of experience, amazing new talent, drive, determination, and direction that effectively results in an intoxicating voodoo influenced mix.
So go on, dance with the devil in the pale moonlight and try First Hit For Free.