||DUTCH MICHAELS' GIG OF THE WEEK
The Empire, Middlesbrough
Friday 21st February 2014
The Answer claim the road to rock n' roll glory is littered with the smouldering remnants of bands that blazed brightly for a few brief moments and then fizzled out in a cloud of thwarted ambitions.
But every now and then a band emerges that walk, talk and rock like true saviours of our beloved music's spirit and soul.
Founded in Northern Ireland in 2000, The Answer have spent the last 13 years proving their rock n' roll credentials and making the kind of life-affirming, eardrum-threatening music that separates the truly great from the merely adequate.
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And now the band are poised to unleash their fourth studio album, the insanely exhilarating 'New Horizon': not just the strongest, catchiest and most thrillingly vital album of their career to date, but also a fearsome statement of intent that obliterates the competition and showcases their trademark rock'n'roll evangelism.
Joining forces with acclaimed producer and Little Angel, the mighty Toby Jepson, they have seldom sounded as electrified by their own celebratory sound as they do on this latest immaculate sonic offering. (See MetalTalk review here).
"We started off the album process the same away as usual, by getting in a room and jamming like motherfuckers, taping everything and going back to the best ideas," explains frontman Cormac Neeson. "The difference this time, especially once Toby was on board, was that we had a discussion about the album we wanted to make, we made a very clear game plan and we stuck to it. Every time we felt like wandering off and indulging ourselves, we'd rein it in and focus on making an album of direct rock 'n' roll songs that'd make you want to get on the dance floor and shake your shit!"
After a few self-financed, low-key releases, The Answer emerged into the mainstream spotlight in 2005 when their debut single Keep Believin' became the subject of great critical acclaim and led The Answer to the 'Best New Band' award at that year's Classic Rock Awards.
The following year, this young band consolidated that early promise with 'Rise', a debut album that received universally great reviews and backed up their burgeoning reputation with fistfuls of gloriously anthemic songs like 'Under The Sky', 'Into The Gutter' and 'Come Follow Me' that delighted everyone from cantankerous classic rock fans to bright-eyed teenagers with a penchant for balls-out rock 'n' roll.
'Rise' went on to sell over 100,000 copies worldwide, a startling achievement that ensured that when the band released their second album, the mighty 'Everyday Demons', two years later, the world was more than ready to embrace The Answer on an even greater scale. The end result of their fearsome reputation, both as an astonishing live band and as rock's brightest hopes, was a two-year stint as chief support to AC/DC, which took them around the world and into some of the biggest venues on the planet.
"We were thrown to the wolves a lot of nights on the road with AC/DC and all we had to fall back on was the four of us playing together," recalls mercurial guitar hero Paul Mahon. "We had to make it work and dig in really hard. After all that time on the road, our songwriting's so much tighter, all the fat has been stripped away and we're much more direct. songs that we had in that vein seemed to go down with their audiences, and we took all of that on board."
Following the success of 'Everyday Demons' and that triumphant cross-global trek with AC/DC, The Answer furthered their reputation and creative aims with 2011s astonishing 'Revival'. By expanding their sound and daring to dream beyond the limits of their core influences, Northern Ireland's finest proved that they had grown, both as a band and as songwriters.
Countless positive reviews and a uniformly ecstatic from their ever-growing fan base confirmed the enormity of the album's artistic bravado and the shows that followed, which saw The Answer headlining in bigger venues than ever before in the UK and Europe, consolidated their ferocious forward momentum.
Meanwhile, some unexpected behind-the-scenes turbulence briefly threatened to derail the band's runaway train to glory. Ever the diehard rock troopers, The Answer made some tough decisions, recruiting new management and signing to a new label, thus ensuring that their future would very much be conducted on their own terms.
Newly revitalised, the band spent much of 2012 writing the songs that have now been brought vividly to life on their extraordinary fourth album, New Horizon. From the bullish bluster of the opening title track and the irresistibly catchy thud 'n' thrust of 'Spectacular' through to the muscular grooves and blues-infused swagger of 'Baby Kill Me' (which was co-written with acclaimed British singer/songwriter Cosmo Jarvis) and the bold and brash call-to-arms of 'Scream A Louder Love', 'New Horizon''s 10 gleaming anthems offer a strident and skilful update of The Answer's ageless manifesto.
This is rock 'n' roll as it was always meant to be: raging with confidence and belief, crackling and sparking with feral energy and exhibiting the kind of sublime compositional flair that separates the instantly classic from the merely mundane.
"We want every album to count, but we wanted this one to have a very direct impact and to present a very clear, concise statement about who we are," says Cormac. "We did a lot of soul-searching and found we really wanted to hone in on the groove, a lot more so than on the last record. That was the foundation for every song.
"We found a groove that worked, jammed round it and then pieced the song together. Lyrically, too, I tried to get my message across without being too simplistic but also without being too out there. I wanted to present my message like a Northern Irish guy should, with no frills and totally in your face.
"We're still here, we're definitely re-energised and the belief is as strong as it ever was," proclaims Cormac. "Our blood's up and we can't wait to get out there and play these new songs for our fans and get things moving. This album is the true representation of what the essence of this band is all about. We're fired up and ready to go!"
Confirmed 2014 dates are:
Feb Shows - support TBC
Wed 19th Feb The Lemon Tree, ABERDEEN
Thur 20th Feb Liquid Rooms, EDINBURGH
Fri 21st Feb Empire, MIDDLESBROUGH
Sat 22nd Feb Duchess, YORK
Sun 23rd Feb Welly, HULL
Tues 25th Feb O2 Academy, LEICESTER
Wed 26th Feb Waterfront, NORWICH
Thus 27th Feb The Forum, TUNBRIDGE WELLS
Fri 28th Feb Chinnerys, SOUTHEND
Germany Shows supported by Cage The Gods
Sun 02nd Mar Musikzentrum, HANOVER, GERMANY
Mon 03rd Mar Puschkin, DRESDEN, GERMANY
Tues 04th Mar Hirsch, NURNBERG, GERMANY
Wed 05th Mar Schlachtof, WIESBADEN, GERMANY
Thurs 06th Mar Knust, HAMBURG, GERMANY
March Shows supported by Black Wolf
Sat 8th Mar O2 Academy, OXFORD
Sun 9th Mar Sub 89, READING
Mon 10th Mar Brook, SOUTHAMPTON
Wed 12th Mar Phoenix, EXETER
Thurs 13th Mar White Rabbit, PLYMOUTH
Fri 14th Mar Live Rooms, CHESTER
Sat 15th Mar Sin City, SWANSEA
Mon 17th Mar The Globe, CARDIFF
Tues 18th Mar Kasbah, COVENTRY
Wed 19th Mar Sugarmill, STOKE
Thurs 20th Mar O2 Academy, LIVERPOOL
Sat 22nd Mar Shortts, WATERFORD, EIRE
Sun 23rd Mar Cypress Ave, CORK, EIRE
Mon 24th Mar Roisin Dubh, GALWAY, EIRE
Wed 26th Mar Dolans, LIMERICK, EIRE
Thurs 27th Mar Sandinos, DERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND (support I Wyldling)
Fri 28th Mar The Playhouse, PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND (support Mojo Fury)
Sat 29th Mar Quinns, NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND (support Rupture Dogs)
UK shows are priced £14 (subject to booking fee). Tickets are available from local box offices and usual outlets.