Electrified | Artist: Black Water Rising | Producer: Rob Traynor | Label: Pavement Entertainment | Year: 2017
It’s been four years since Black Water Rising last graced the hard rock charts and so has it been an agonizing wait for this, their third album Electrified, to finally hit my playlist. It seems that the Brooklyn-based rockers haven’t missed many beats in their returning effort, as the same vicious guitar riffs and aggressive vocals that made their self-titled debut album and its sequel so successful are still very much alive here.
To be brutally honest though, I don’t feel that Electrified enjoys quite the same strong start as the band’s previous albums did. The opening tracks Obey and The Answer are both solid offerings, but the lyrics didn’t excite me all that much. Whether this is mere personal preference or a slight difference in how the vocals are mixed this time around is hard to say, though it’s a criticism that I still find noticeable when listening to the next track, Payback.
Recently joined by its own official music video, Payback takes centre stage as the album’s big single. There are some deliciously dirty guitar riffs on this one – perhaps the best riffs on the whole album at that – and yet the the main chorus, “Payback is a bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch…” isn’t catchy like the band’s most recognisable anthems.
It’s a similar case with the follow-up track Millennial Zombies whose curmudgeonly jabs at technology and social media sound too hypocritical for a band who no doubt depend on those very same things in order to sell records and meet fans. Black Water Rising is so much better when you can really get behind the biting themes in their music and for me at least, this track fell flat.
That’s not to discount the incredible vocal talent of Rob Traynor, mind you. From his criminally brief time in the awesome band Dust to Dust to his more recognised work here in BWR, Traynor’s lyrics have often hit the mark with their honesty and venom and fortunately it’s this same quality that returns in a big way for the fifth song called Reality Check.
Reality Check is the quintessential “Traynor” track for this album; a song dripping with resentful bile and sheer contempt for our world gone mad. It’s pretty great! It’s follow-up track Don’t Wait Up For Me is a sublime number too and at this point on the album you can really start to feel the electricity building. Higher and Buried in Black are two more no frills rockers that don’t disappoint as well as Electrified which rightfully earns its place as title track thanks to some shredding riffs and a surprisingly agile chorus.
Closing out the album are Foolish Pride; a satisfyingly downbeat “Traynor” head-banger, and World of Frustration which slows the pace down for a sombre and yet deceptively anthemic climax. If I’m ever lucky enough to see Black Water Rising live someday then it’s tracks like these that I’ll be looking forward to hearing.
Despite a somewhat wonky start then, it’s easy to label Electrified as a welcome addition to the band’s expanding discography. If heart truly can be heard through music, then I’m sure it’s in albums like these where you’ll hear it. For a bunch of guys that write, engineer, promote, and record all of this material by themselves, it’s a wonder they even have time for the little touches like World of Frustration’s hidden outro or the kick-ass cover art that continues the petrol-obsessed theme established in their previous album, Pissed and Driven.
As a complete album Electrified is arguably more of a grower when compared to those earlier efforts, but as long as the metal is this heavy and Traynor’s stylish voice continues to scythe through it all, it will forever be easy to welcome the coming of the tide.