Smoking Martha – In Deep – Album Review
This band of all-stars is like the gift that keeps on giving. Ever since their release of their self-titled EP, I’ve been yelling at the top of my lungs about this crew of five from Brisbane, Australia. Quite honestly, there’s been every reason to yell – partly because people out there NEED to know about Smoking Martha – and partly because I tend to turn this band up so loud that you wouldn’t hear me otherwise. They have collectively proven to my ears countless times that Smoking Martha has the ‘it’ factor…I consider it my duty & honor to make sure the world knows about this band as best I can – and I take this role incredibly seriously…
SO WITHOUT FURTHER EDUE, I’D LIKE TO ANNOUNCE THE DEBUT FULL-LENGTH RECORD – ONE OF MY OWN PERSONAL MOST-ANTICIPATED ALBUMS OF 2017, CALLED IN DEEP FROM SMOKING MARTHA.
You’re all just lucky I don’t type this entire review out in ALL-CAPS…because I am THAT excited about how this whole record turned out for this incredibly dynamic and wickedly entertaining band. They’ve put in the work to really make this album as perfect as can possibly be & those efforts are certainly noted – and the results of it all are songs you’ll want to turn up as loud as your stereo will allow you to.
LISTEN to the killer riffs that start up “So Lonely” and the deadly, sleek and sultry way that In Deep begins! Love the way that Tasha sings this one in her lead through the verse & chorus, but also big-time digging the backing vocals she’s put in on this first cut. Overall, the magic really lies in the pacing and timing of this track…the structure and songwriting of Smoking Martha immediately presents itself with the power and passion we’ve come to know, love and seriously respect. Setting the standard for quality in the writing, performance and production that you can expect to drive the thunder and presence in this album, “So Lonely” immediately makes an impact in the verse with a dank groove then quickly pivots and shifts into a serious second-gear through the enveloping, surrounding chorus. Really clever work through the rhythm section of Matty (Bass) and Jordy (Drums) – together they stoke the fire on this opener with brilliant, stylistic grooves, high attention to detail and immaculate precision.
With “Say You’re Mine” happening so early on in the lineup & following “So Lonely” – the storyline and concepts driving this album begin to reveal themselves. Tales & themes of heartbreak, betrayal, confusion, pain, loss…perhaps even revenge…all these elements are explored in brutalizing, open & honest ways…feelings, thoughts and extreme emotions are pored over mentally and bleed-out brutally exposed & raw right into the music. Scorching tales of the disasters that love can lead you into when you truly get In Deep. If any of these songs are based upon real-life experiences, believe me when I say the last thing you’d want to do is find yourself on the bad-side of the members in Smoking Martha. Thrashing, kicking, gnarling & snarling – “Say You’re Mine” is a powerful track that seriously holds up, even after being the initial release to introduce us all into this record long ago. It was and IS a perfect track to snare people into the mix of power, melody and deep-cutting material that Smoking Martha makes…still absolutely love this tune. Find the original review of their lead-single “Say You’re Mine” here at this link while you listen to the track below!
Like many of the heavy bands that have walked the rock/metal path before them, you can hear the subtle layer of blues-rock that creeps into the mix on songs like “To The Stars” – I have a feeling that as long as Smoking Martha is describing as anything-rock, they’re probably plenty happy with the feedback. And rock they most certainly do – “To The Stars” works riffage like Kyuss or Queens do…lots of space in the mix, tons of groove and when they wanna flip the switch to go hard, they pull it off every time. Some excellent ideas in the final moments of the vocals on this tune between the layers and what sounds like some additional effect laced-in…the entire song really adds up and speaks to the innovative way that this band ROCKS. Keeping the album fresh in style, sound and heavy grooves, “To The Stars” has wicked bass-lines and guitars that know all the perfect times to stop & start to create the maximum effect and memorable power in the movements they make throughout this third cut. Guitar solo is quick & to the point, but real damn good – I’ll take it & your ears will too. Not only can they structure the living hell out of a song to present versatile dynamics of all kinds, Smoking Martha also knows exactly how to leave you wanting more by taking the idea right to its furthest depths by the end like they do on “To The Stars.”
The punch, push, pull & grind of “Ebb Of The Tide” was a real highlight for me early on. How about the jazzy breakdown in the middle of this tune – does THAT hit the spot or what? Long before that, the guitar tones mesmerize as this track revs up its engine…that familiar hit of the forceful punch of Smoking Martha’s music coming in again for a knockout with a gigantic chorus. “Ebb Of The Tide” has that real benefit of a verse & chorus of equal caliber strength; the transitions between parts are expertly performed and as all-out powerful as you’ve come to expect. Then…the raddest switch into a jazz-inspired breakdown that’s so sickly satisfying and made all the more sweet by the rip back into the chorus and furiously paced ending.
More in your face than ever before by comparison to the rest of the tracks so far perhaps, they take the energy on the album to new heights with “One Night,” guitar-riffs way up in the mix to stoke this fire to a white-hot blaze. Jordy never lets up on the drumkit…this guy seems to be able to take any tempo, beat or timing-signature you can throw at him and pound it all out like he was truly born to own the throne with authority – how can you not dig that? The howling vocals of Tasha fill this tune perfectly, wild guitar solos and standout bass-lines, the band twists & turns, grinds and burns on “One Night” – THIS sounds like a band that is seriously kicking all the ass and taking their moment by sheer force.
Presenting a seriously impressive dimension to their sound and to the new record, “Baby Let Me Go” might very well be one of my favorite ideas, sounds and performances from this band. I mean…we’re talking orchestral elements here…beautiful acoustic guitars and an astounding, jaw-dropping performance from Tasha – she’s 100% stunning in this sparkling ballad. On the one hand…I know that this isn’t perhaps the ‘typical’ side of the rock-heavy Smoking Martha…and the last thing I’d want to do is discourage them from continuing to tap that vein…but…well…you all realize how AMAZING this song sounds? All-in-all, this is straight-up one of the best original rock-ballads I’ve heard in years and years. In an odd way, it kind of reminds me vaguely of the sincerity you’d find in a song like Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” crossed with multi-dimensional epicness of an emotional ballad like “Don’t Cry” from Guns & Roses…there’s a real majestic, magical and mystical sound that runs through the haunting spirit and melody of “Baby Let Me Go” that you won’t be able to shake off afterwards even if you wanted to, which you won’t. This melancholy masterpiece sticks right to your bones and is likely to haunt your heart for years to come. The execution of this concept is absolutely off-the-charts good…I’m truly stunned and amazed by just how well Smoking Martha comes out on the tender-side of sound – this is the kind of performance that would make MTV want to bring back their Unplugged sessions, “Baby Let Me Go” is pure beauty & brilliance entwined. Every movement from Tasha’s lips carries an immaculate amount of grace, courage and beauty in words full of wisdom, insight & heartbreak – she couldn’t possibly be more perfect on this track than what you’ll hear her put into this performance. A really ‘new’ sound for this band that really works wonders for them and entirely proves that Smoking Martha can win you over just as easily with their softer side.
The guitars from Mick and AZ on “Follow” are freakin’ GOLD. These two consistently pack punch & crunch into their tones like nobody’s business – but they really do have a way of complementing each other through the lead & rhythm ideas that are extraordinary in this particular song. Once again the pacing and timing of Smoking Martha sounds intense, deadly, looming and menacing through their movements on “Follow” – and after slowing it all down with “Baby Let Me Go” only a moment before, they get gritty right away again with “Follow” and bring us back out of the light and firmly into the dark. The structure and flow of this entire song is seriously mesmerizing…probably one of the most insightful uses of the blues-elements in the writing with the bass-lines burning under the surface at a steady, slow-burning pace. The vocals and the way they flow into the chorus of “Follow” sound spectacular…like with each second that Tasha sings the words she’s summoning more strength and they gain more & more presence as they soar straight into the mix. Excellent guitar solos and lead-parts written into “Follow” – there’s no part of this song that doesn’t impress me…the verse moves smartly & slowly like the song is poised to strike-out at you and take a bite out of your face at any moment…and then it makes good on the threat by going straight for the throat with a massive chorus that truly delivers the full power.
“Find A Way” is like the musical form of any story that takes place between the spider and the fly. Mixing confidence, sexiness and mischief into one wild tale of mayhem – this song is out to snare listening victims and pull them into their web of sound without letting go. As IF you needed another reason to love this band! They give you another solid one here amongst the firm grip of the heavied-out bass-tones and smart grinding of guitars that rip around in this track – the entire album has been rock-solid all the way through, but notably, the tracks beyond this record’s halfway-mark impressively find ways to raise the stakes even higher. There are TONS of audibly amazing moments…but I’ll be damned if this record doesn’t actually play like Smoking Martha is in competition with themselves and trying to continually one-up the song that just played before it. THAT dear readers, dear friends…is what you can definitely call a very decent problem to have. They’ve successfully delivered serious entertainment, professionalism, passion and raw power in every moment along the way and “Find A Way” is no exception. Tasha’s performance is absolutely deadly in the verses, exploding and soaring in the choruses while the band crushes it behind her, supporting the incredible vocals with killer bass-tones, pounding, authoritative-drums and seething guitars. Sounding big, sounding bold and sounding seriously powerful once again, “Find A Way” stands out for its lyricism, pacing, ideas and execution.
The second lead-single from In Deep comes towards the end of the record to add further reliability to the end of the record with a song that’s tried, tested & true, “What’s Her Name?” My thoughts on this one were also expressed in-full when it came out…you can find the full-review on that by clicking here. To sum it all up though, “What’s Her Name?” features a powerhouse of emotional-depth and an incredible performance from Tasha as she launches into the grip of the chorus hooks. It’s a huge cut with imagery, themes & messages that cut as deep as they possibly can with no apologizes to be made, fucks to be given or quarter to be had.
The final chorus of “Stranger Things” wasn’t exactly my favorite on the record and the song itself almost seemed like kind of an odd-fit for this album…but almost everything happening surrounding the chorus still registered as real highlight moments for me. Loved the guitars in the breakdown of the song past the two-minute mark and the unique way that Tasha chooses to sing that part; for me, the way they tackle this song from that breakdown and switch their direction in sound one final time to end “Stranger Things” is what really saved this final track for me. Well…to be fair I dig the verses a hell of a lot too on this final cut…and I ‘get’ why the shout/anthem/crowd-participation aspects of the initial choruses WORK and that people love them too…nothing technically out of place or even close to ‘wrong’ about’em…just whether or not they work for you personally is all. Thematically compared to the rest of the material, it felt like “Stranger Things” slightly drifted from what also connected the first nine songs just enough to notice its different attitude…it kind of played like a bonus track for me on this particular record. That being said – every time it gets to the main switch in this song, I’m absolutely blown-away by how much of a difference it makes in loving this final song and how hard it raises the bar in its finale.
Smoking Martha put every ounce of pain, power, blood, sweat & tears into the final minutes of this record and the ending on “Stranger Things” is a complete confirmation of that mountainous effort made along the way to get this album really RIGHT. I can’t do anything but applaud and commend the insane of work, dedication and effort I know this band really puts into their music – In Deep lived up to & surpassed every expectation I had for Smoking Martha – and that bar was already set mighty high. The emotions run as thick & deep as the music does and every performance they’ve put in sounded like they played like their lives depended on it. The work has truly been put into this album, no doubt about it. I continue to firmly believe that this band has more going for them than 99% of the bands I hear in the rock-genre…or ANY genre for that matter – this band & their music are purely as good as it gets and their new record entirely proves that. They should be seriously proud of themselves – In Deep is killer.
Find out more about Smoking Martha at their official website: www.SmokingMartha.com
And dammit – support them at Facebook too, they deserve it! Hit the ol’ LIKE button on FB at this page: https://www.facebook.com/smokingmartha
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