Originally from Toronto but now based in Texas, Black Pistol Fire are a two-man band consisting of vocalist/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer/bass synth player Eric Owen. After spending almost a decade building a dedicated fanbase and refining their singular two-man approach, the band are set to release the next chapter with their new album ‘Look Alive’ via Black Hill Records.
Regarding the album McKeown states: “When we first started out a decade ago, I had one guitar and one guitar pedal, and Eric had his drums and a green Dodge Neon – that was it. So, experimentation was just not an option.” Since then, things have changed. McKeown’s pedal collection – and the resulting range of sounds he is capable of producing with it – is an awe-inspiring thing, for one, while Owen has moved beyond a mere acoustic kit to add bass synth, electronic drums and other colours to the mix.
The album kicks off with some falsetto vocals and organ, and title track ‘Look Alive’ makes for a great opener. Some melodic bass sits nicely in the mix, before the guitar stabs in and the song opens up for the chorus. The recent singles have all had one major thing that has helped them to stand out: McKeown’s vocals are just short of perfection when it comes to the blues rock genre.
‘Pick Your Poison’ has a 50s doo-wop feel to it. A powerful simple drum beat dominates and lets McKeown stab at his guitar and deliver some addictive vocals. Meanwhile, there’s a cracking riff on the uptempo ‘Holdin’ Up’which sees Mckewen let loose with those vocal cords. The album sees a few tracks display some great guitar riffs: check out the opening riffs to ‘Wildlife’ or ‘Hope In Hell’ or ‘Black Halo’.
Slick and cool ‘Never Enough’ features some effective guitar that mimics the vocal lead line. The chorus shimmers with what seems to be the band’s signature style. The guitar on this track and the likes of ‘Pick Your Poison’ just dips in when needed. It’s not a wall of sound, just stabs of colour. The guys work with what the songs need and there seems to be a really good grasp on what works and what doesn’t. There’s nothing extra here. Nothing that isn’t needed.
‘Wildfire’ echoes that statement with a simple hand clap beat and intricate riff. The song really takes off when the quick fire drumming picks up the beat and the chorus has a feel of some 2000s R’n’B.
‘Hope In Hell’ is catchy as hell, and has maybe the best vocal performance of the album. The track has some cool lead playing throughout and a drum beat that just grabs hold and has you tapping along or nodding the head in appreciation. ‘Black Halo’ goes back in time for some 50s guitar twang riffing and some great drumming that lifts the track up to something spectacular, with an extra dab of synths to add a melodic motif.
One of the album’s highlights is ‘Temper. Temper’. A catchy groovy number with another great vocal performance. A performance matched with the next track ‘Level’ Starts off with a simple palm mute riff but builds with another lead guitar sliding in and out before taking over with a scorcher of a solo. ‘Always On My Mind’ is all jingly guitars at first before the power driven rock kicks in, with a chorus that just begs for the live arena.
Saving best for last, ‘Beyond The Blue’ is the album’s heartstring puller. All the stops are pulled to create something a bit special here. McKewon is on top form and sounds like God over some compressed picked guitar, and the vocal melody line just draws you in. The emotion is hiked up with the inclusion of an organ in the background before the song is completed with an emotional solo which is mixed with harmonised vocals – such a great moment to end on.
The duo have been constantly expanding their overall sound, bringing in different elements to produce a more complex sound, pushing their limits to sound more like a full band, which is impressive to say the least, nodding to their skills as composers and musicians.
It’s an infectious album that takes you to a summer’s day when you listen to it. Whether or not you are a new fan, there is no denying this is packed full of downright brilliant rock’n’roll tracks that take another step up with the band’s songwriting and overall craft – an album that you will love for the rest of the year.
Read our interview with Eric Owen here
Have a listen to ‘Hope In Hell’ below:
Find out more about the band via their Facebook
Order the album here