The three years since debut album “Scatter The Crow” from Slaves to Gravity, have dragged for fans of the Londoners, but now with the release of its follow up “Underwaterouterspace”, those eagerly waiting fans should be grinning from ear to ear. They return with 12 tracks of grunge fused rock that satisfy and entertain without bringing any surprises or succumbing to the urge to take risks. There is no real advancement from “Scatter The Crow” in the new material but the band does write some very enjoyable music with hooks and melodies that draw the listener in and create a sound that is on the whole pleasing but the question is should there be more than that from them this time around?
“Underwaterouterspace” starts off with a burst of quality with the songs ‘Good Advice’ and ‘Honesty’. The first is the best track on the album, a rock song that bursts with riffs and rising melodies over a strong rhythm spine and graced with the Chris Cornell-esque vocals of Tommy Gleeson. The latter track is a melodious guitar enthused slice of pop rock that refuses to sit still, full of mischievous fun that is hard to resist.
From this impressive start, and though the remaining songs are all strong, there is a drop from the opening levels. The thing about Slaves to Gravity is that they have firmly and directly gone for grunge as their inspiration and style, nothing wrong in that but the problem is they have a sound that appears to imitate Alice in Chains and particularly Soundgarden. This works both ways; positively the band is able of writing some great tunes that bring all the best of the genre wrapped in a big attractive rock attack, but countering that is the fact their songs sound like a series of b-sides from Cornell and co. When they do stray away from the grunge sound, as on ‘Silence Now’, the new single and worse track here, they come over like Sick Puppies at their worst.
This is not to say the album is bad, far from it, as tracks like ‘She’s Got Big Plans’ with its great addictive chorus, ‘Unknown’ incorporating a scuzzy guitar attack that is probably the strongest on the release, and the more than solid ‘Dumb’, all readily bring a pleasing energy and sound for the ear to feast upon. It is just that every dish on the menu that is “Underwaterouterspace” is flavoured with the characteristic Soundgarden guitar twang and though Mark Verney and Gleeson’s guitar skills are beyond reproach, as is the bass of Toshi Ogawa, every song is their proof maybe it is time for their own style to emerge.
There are a couple of times the band do take a slightly more adventurous move. ‘This Time It’s Terminal’ is a slow burner that just evades the ballad tag and is blessed with precision guitar nicely playing over a metronomic rhythm, which with its subdued control works rather well. Only surpassed by the opener as best song ‘Youth Serrated’ is a slightly different approach and although one senses a bit of a tongue in cheek in its conception with its yokel grunge sound, it is something different from what surrounds it though again still carrying that deep Soundgarden feel.
“Underwaterouterspace” is a good solid and enjoyable album whatever its flaws and apart from the dip after the opening fanfare it is consistent with its big melodies, riffs and uplifting energy. What it is not is anything particularly fresh or inspiring. Because the songs are good it is maybe not a fatal negative but it is hard to gauge the release as anything other than a good time before moving on to more substantial and inspiring things.