“We need more dirt [in rock ‘n’ roll].” – That’s a quote attributed to Krokus‘ Chris Von Rohr, and it fully resonates with the RMR deckhands. The ‘zine indeed needs much more rock and a bit less metal1) to be honest. And we haven’t been too successful in toning this down some lately, given the avalanche of pretty excellent material that rolled our way.
The Sonic Overlords with Morgan Zocek at the helm hovered around the fringes of the mighty RMR soundscape for a while. And now they’re finally ready to unleash their debut album Last Days of Babylon to the public.
I won’t hide from you that the RMR crew here didn’t quite know what to expect at first. There is the specter of the Ozzy Cover Band, from which came some of the band members. And the last thing we’d fancy is some fake Ozzy whine at this time. Yet again, Zocek‘s other outfit, Sideburn, did not disappoint in the past. So, would we finally get some scratchy croaks, dirty riffs, and general rockiness?
Well, fear naught.
Last Days of Babylon creaks on down the rock ‘n’ roll trail like the best of ’em. The band serves some sturdy fare of Hard and Heavy Rock that comes with that tasty doom flavor we love. Sometimes right on the brink of Heavy Metal, but often down there, where heavy drum beats, screaming guitars, and whiskey-soaked vocals just about fail to grind you into the dust.
The oldish sounds and flavors of the ’70s and ’80s when rock was still a force in itself popped to the forefront more than once in 2021 on RMR. Now, The Sonic Overlords took this to the next level. You’ll discern references to the now-defunct Black Sabbath, Rainbow, and some guitar-soaked shenanigans that sorely reminded me of (young) Schenker. You know, the one that pushed UFO to new heights, a long time ago.
It’s a pity that Last Days of Babylon starts with Utopia, though. It’s indeed a song that rock radio will play, and I get the marketing behind it. But having such an accessible song straight at the beginning will turn the seekers of dirt like yours truly away. Now, its sing-along chorus surely followed us around for a while, and that means it resonated some with this crew. But nothing will describe the delight once the low-tempo grind of In My Darkest Room hit. Its slow-marching doom really had us sold already almost before the opening riff finished.
Funny enough, you’ll find loads of that retro-doom with its slightly oriental flavor2) on this record. And that works well with the sturdy drumming, the often excellent guitar work, and – of course – Marcus Zachrisson Rubin‘s grating grind that just fits well with all that stonework Babylon once was.
The record keeps going with some surprising stamina. Lords of Tomorrow surprised us with its snazzy doomy groove. World on Fire – for instance – moves on a steady wave of progression and gets you some lifely shredding on an otherworldly solo. Boy, I can almost see Zocek on the top level of some tower of Babylon hacking away at his axe. And all of that sweet rock’n’roll comes with those oldish flavors that harken back to times when rock was smokin’ hot.
The RMR crew liked to get a rock record with a theme. Last Days of Babylon fits the style perfectly. If they would have gone to Heavy Metal, they would be on a collision course with others before them. Power Metal doesn’t really fit this band, yet Hard ‘n’ Heavy just sits perfectly with them. Now make no mistake, The Sonic Overlords careen right down rock alley with no special frills attached. None of that new-age nonsense to inject ‘new elements’ to appease a ‘modern’ fan crowd. And we appreciate that.
And you know what? That’s just what our stony hearts craved for. Lava hot down ‘n’ dirty rock, a comfortable grind, and some truly snazzy guitar work, with drums that just want to stomp you into the sands of Babylon. And all of that comes against a backdrop of black leather, massive boots, and heavy motorcycles. No further accouterments needed.
What else could we ask for, right?