By Joel O’Keefe’s own admission ‘No Guts, No Glory’ was overlong when compared to the debut ‘Running Wild’ and new album ‘Black Dog Barking’ makes a welcome return to quality over quantity.
Black Dog Barking’s masterstroke however must be the decision to change producer, with Mutt Lange-alike producer Brian Howes taking over from Johnny K this time around. Using techniques more in tune with old school classic rock such as recording to tape and an appreciation of the record producers who made a difference, Howes has successfully refined and freshened up Airbourne’s sound. In short this is Airbourne’s ‘Highway to Hell’ moment with minimal touches of follow ups ‘Back In Black’ or ‘For Those About To Rock’.
Vocal enhancements are noticeable right of the bat with opener ‘Ready To Rock’s’ soaring opening gang vocal intro and there’s a Lange era Def Leppard familiarity to ‘Animalize Me’ where O’Keefe sings rather than rages over the unusual chord progressions. ‘A Women Like That’ has echoes of ‘Shot Down In Flames’ and before erupting into a raucous stomper ‘Livin It Up’ has more than a passing similarity to ‘For Those About To Rock’. All the elements of Airbourne are present and correct but ‘Black Dog Barking’ is far more subtle more eclectic and far less one paced than its predecessor. As a whole the album appears to have far more thought put into it be it from the song writing, the riff structures or the production tweaks. ‘Hungry’ adds some more traditional metal elements, whilst ‘Live It Up’ complete with air raid siren intro is a shoe in for a live opener.
By the bands own admission their music is little more than pub rock, however whereas Airbourne’s previous albums were more suited to the spit and sawdust backwater pubs ‘Black Dog Barking’ is much more of a gastro pub album; it’s still more Kings Head than York and Albany and yet it stands out as the bands best album to date.