ALBUM REVIEW: The Age Of Absurdity – Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons

Starting up a new band completely from scratch can be a daunting task for anyone, but when your previous band is revered hard rock legends MOTÖRHEAD, and your new bandmates mostly your own sons, it adds a whole new layer of intrigue to the discussion. That’s the situation that guitarist Phil Campbell now finds himself in, and his new band PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS definitely have a lot of eyes on their full-length debut album.

From its very opening moments, The Age Of Absurdity puts across exactly what fans of Campbell’s work have come to love him for – big gigantic riffs. First track Ringleader kicks in with a brisk up-tempo sprint of a guitar line and immediately puts to rest any notion that this was going to be anything other than a hard rock record. Vocalist Neil Starr (formerly of Welsh alt-rockets ATTACK! ATTACK!) puts on a great vocal showcase here too, displaying the kind of bass-heavy vocal tone not too dissimilar to that of BLACK STONE CHERRY, only with a touch more grit.

This fast & heavy approach is essentially the blueprint for much of the material on The Age Of Absurdity, as demonstrated by following tracks like Freak Show and Gypsy Kiss, however it’s far from the be all and end all. Dark Days sits approximately midway through the record and slows proceedings right down with a swampy guitar line and dour, mournful vocals from Starr and an overall distinctly southern-rock style sound. It’s a nice departure from what until now has felt like a fairly one-note release (albeit a rather strong one), and shows off the versatility of the Bastard Sons well.

In complete contrast, it’s followed up by perhaps the strongest example of the band simply going all-out punk. Dropping The Needle lasts a mere one minute and fifty seconds, but it more than makes an impact, with one of the album’s hardest hitting riffs and a frantic delivery that, quite frankly, the band excel at on every level. If anything, it’s perhaps even one of the highlights of the entire album, such is the quality of the band members’ combined efforts on display here, and it’s a real shame it runs so briefly.

As the record reaches its eventual climax, there’s time for one final curveball though. Closing number Into The Dark clocks in at a touch over six and a half minutes long and provides one final slab of the slower-paced stomping side of PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS songwriting. Here drummer Dane Campbell sets the pace, and underpins his bandmates with a measured, yet powerful stomp that provides the perfect canvas for the track’s silky smooth guitar licks. Ending on a track that’s roughly twice the length of anything else on your album might seem a bold move, but it’s one PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS seem to manage with ease, and without making the track any less interesting than their other more concise numbers.

As far as debut albums go, it’s hard to argue with The Age Of Absurdity being anything other than a strong opening gambit. In terms of setting out a sound, the band have clearly found their niche, whilst still being willing to experiment with a variety of different styles along the way. Really though, the most overriding feeling from listening to the album is simply that this is the sound of a group of people simply having a blast, and on the whole, it really shows in the quality of the final release. If this truly is what The Age of Absurdity sounds like; bring it on!

Rating: 7/10

The Age of Absurdity - Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons

The Age of Absurdity is set for release on January 26th via Nuclear Blast Records.