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Ragdoll-Back-to-Zero-Review-2016

RAGDOLL - BACK TO ZERO -Review

SELF RELEASED | Release Date: May April 6th 2016




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From the eerie opening stanza of the instrumental title track that paints the first strokes of the album  ‘Back to Zero’ and the vocal opening of ‘Shine’, which rolls on with its sweeping groove, elevated by Ryan Rafferty’s trademark vocal phrasing  you can hear a band waiting to explode on this their debut full-length. ‘Shine’ may well be relatively low-key but it’s the calm before the storm already hinted at by Leon Todd’s restrained yet somehow ‘waiting to glow incandescent’ guitar break.


For those of us lucky enough to have heard Ragdoll road test a few choice songs from the album ‘Playing God’ comes with eager anticipation and sounds like the first of a number of winners. There’s something right about the mix here that suits the music, all restrained aggression, buoyed by Rafferty’s sweet melodies and Todd’s swirling guitars. It may be a little slicker than their live show which has that real grit but it gives a band built upon a solid appreciation of their Rock history a modern attitude that sets them apart from some of their more ‘retro’ sounding contemporaries. This isn’t an album that reveres valve-amps and analogue authenticity.


Lead single ‘The World You Gave Us’ rails against and eschews the technology that the band seems comfortable to embrace in the production. It’s a powerful song and sees Rafferty’s great voice break out for the first time.  It might not be as immediate as some of the tracks here, but it certainly lays out the essence of ‘Back to Zero’ - thoughtful lyrics, well-constructed songs and a modern Metal-tinged sound that is tempered by soaring melodies.


‘Rewind Your Mind’ opens up an ocean of melody, tempered by a hard riff juxtaposed with a sweet refrain, there’s just something about it that you can’t put your finger on, like all the best songs it sounds immediately familiar yet evasively distant.  ‘The Last Time’ starts out so much less subtle, riffing into your head before laying down a solid groove and resting back behind the wheel racing towards a melodic ocean. It’s a song that drives in its mantra ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time’ and lets the ocean wash all over that thought: It’s beautiful, and it could well be the melodic highpoint of the album. Something you’ll want to play again and again.


‘Letting Go’ has far greater urgency, sweaty, insistent, a raging fist to the sky made to be played live; it tackles the thorny theme of domestic abuse sensitively. ‘Dreaming Out Load’ that follows cuts and changes, ebbs and flows and carries a great refrain before ‘Save Me’ rides a meaty groove and explodes before resting back then exploding again like a Prog-Grunge-Metal slap in the face, with the sting dissipated by the melody.


The album closes with two great tracks ‘Love On the Run’ is a huge stadium rocker that delivers a real hard rock punch, like songs like ‘Foot to the Floor’ did in the past, whilst closer ‘Kungfoolery’ (a song I have a demo of from years back and always knew it was too good to sit in the drawer!)  adds a funky close to proceedings and  shows that instrumentals in the hands of a guitarist like Leon Todd can be a revelation.

         
It seems like years since I first saw Ryan and Leon play in a band together and over the years their chemistry has become so intertwined that it’s almost a life force of its own. After 3 Eps and a remix of their first two releases (and for completists a debut release ‘Extended Play’ released as a four piece that is almost impossible to find now) Ragdoll has really found its voice on ‘Back to Zero’.   

 

This isn’t just a great record; it’s a labour of love and shows just what three guys from Perth Australia can do – and that is to make a world class modern rock album that though solidly grounded in the three great decades of rock, has a sound that only looks forward and never looks back.  Essential isn’t too big an accolade to hang on this. You need it and the World needs more bands like Ragdoll.

 

 

 

by Mark Rockpit

 

 


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