Old Blood - 'Live at RADA'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Old Blood, a Western Australian five pieces blues rock outfit. Their eclectic sound has taken eighteen months to craft and each of the five songs on their new EP, ‘Live at RADA,’ are original creations. The recordings were, as the name suggests, recorded live in front of an intimate audience at RADA Studios last year. Are they worth adding to your collection of independent music this summer? How do they stack up against the rest of the scene? Let’s dig into the new record and find out.

For the purpose of performing this album’s tracks in a live setting, Old Blood brought on three additional performers, rounding out the band to eight members. This is their first release, which is rather unique considering the band opted for a live debut. In that regard, ‘Live at RADA’ is an impressive beast. It’s recorded beautifully, the performances are particularly tight, and the organic feel of the recordings suits Old Blood very nicely. ‘Grand Plan,’ the opening song, introduces a soundscape chock-full of fantastic organ and bass riffing, matched perfectly by especially good lead vocals. Tony Papa-Adams, the frontman of Old Blood, holds the listener’s attention masterfully, crooning in a bluesy fashion that complements the overarching sonic themes instead of overpowering them.

‘Lay Down’ compliments its predecessor well, opting for a more melancholy, atmospheric space. The addition of a second percussionist really adds quite a bit of flair to each composition. While ‘Grand Plan’ is a decently written song, ‘Lay Down’ seems to stretch the outfit’s creative wings even further with some excellent lyricism. It’s a dark, bluesy breakup track that evokes an intriguing element of soul, too. Papa-Adams tearing into the landscape with an intense growl toward the finale is absolutely compelling, and he’s accentuated so powerfully by such a tactful instrumental performance.

Clocking in just under twelve minutes, ‘Blue Jean Blues’ is probably the tallest order on this album that Old Blood attempts to fill. When a group delves into such a lengthy song, it can often devolve into ostentatious soloing and meandering. Initially, I was apprehensive of this because of how concrete ‘Grand Plan’ and ‘Lay Down’ were prior to this song. After listening to it four times over, however, I’m convinced that this is one of the best tracks of its length in the indie scene. Each solo, each verse, each note feels like it has purpose - as if it was meticulously planned out prior to its performance. At the same time, however, it feels spontaneous, too. It gives the impression that Old Blood is off the beaten path, but they’re also aware of it and they’re thriving off of it.

The foot-stomping ‘Slippin’ is an interesting entry toward the end of the album, offering another jaunt through a reverb-laden atmosphere. Though the song feels a tad somber, it also seems to round out the lyrical themes introduced in ‘Lay Down’ as the songwriter takes a step toward independence from his blues. ‘Medicine Man’ closes the album in a bombastic way, offering one of the most terrific performances on ‘Live at RADA.’ It’s a heavy-hitting closer that leaves the listener wanting so much more from Old Blood.

Hopefully we get so much more from this band. ‘Live at RADA’ is a resounding success. As a debut album, it’s daring and different enough to warrant your attention. Lyrically and instrumentally, it’s crafted painstakingly and the eighteen months of work truly does show. On the production end, RADA Studios did the band justice, and not a note is ill-mixed or oddly mastered. Go check it out on Band Camp now.