What do you get if you cross current and ex-members of renowned British bands like Heartland, cheeky London based rockers Thunder, seventies rock legends Wishbone Ash as well as legendary hard rock and Heavy Metal bands Whitesnake and Black Sabbath? Simple – you get a talented sextet by the name of Snakecharmer – a band who know exactly how to write, play and produce music of the highest calibre.
Snakecharmer: ‘Second Skin’
Out Now (Frontiers Records)
Words: Johnny Main
Formed back in 2011 by former Whitesnake members Micky Moody and Neil Murray, along with Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash), Harry James (Thunder, Magnum), Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath live), and Chris Ousey (Heartland), Moody left the group in 2016 and was succeeded by virtuoso guitarist, Simon McBride, who stepped into the breach.
Snakecharmer released their self-titled debut album in 2013, which was met with almost universal acclaim. It successfully mixed blues and melodic overtones on a collection of finely crafted hard rock songs. ‘Second Skin’ is the long awaited follow-up and it brings the listener straight back to the good old days of real music – when rock’n’roll was played with heart and soul and real talent.
A slightly harder edged release compared to the debut, ‘Second Skin’ very much still has its roots still firmly planted in the classic hard rock vibe with a hint of late 70s AOR, but this new record sounds fresh and crisp.
‘Sounds Like A Plan’ kicks things off in fine style with some bluesy vocals from frontman Chris Ousey and some simple guitar at the beginning before the drums and guitar riff (which is somewhat reminiscent of AC/DC’s 1993 single ‘Big Gun’) kicks in and the tempo picks up. Later on, ‘Follow Me Under’, another demonstration of how this band can produce a straight out rock number, has the keyboards of Adam Wakeman much more prominent during the intro but they end up slightly too far back in the mix during the rest of the song.
On the whole, though, it’s been one of my favourite tracks from my very first listen because it has everything – great guitar, simple but effective drums, great vocals and a catchy chorus and what else do you really need?
Further down the line is ‘Punching Above My Weight’ which has an acoustic guitar intro which unexpectedly turns into something of a rocker. Ousey stretches his voice, showing that there’s no holding back in his performance before the great soaring guitar solo and thumping bass line, courtesy of bass legend Neil Murray, keeps the song in check. Really great stuff.
‘Dress It Up’ might seem like a standard rocker on a first listen, but the more you hear it the more it sticks in your brain with its enjoyable, shouty chorus that surely has the potential to get the audience involved during live shows?
Drummer Harry James comes into his own on ‘Hell Of A Way To Live’ with a slow and steady drum beat during intro that’s pretty much guaranteed to get the audience clapping along at gigs, and the tempo doesn’t deviate much from them on. The bonus here is the guitar riff throughout the number which has a softer edge to it than some of the others.
Another slower tempo number is ‘That Kind Of Something’ which allows Ousey to showcase that fantastic voice once again, while the guitar solo floats effortlessly around the verses.
Indeed, Ousey has another showcase moment during ‘Fade Away’ where he’s joined by some subtle drums and sympathetic guitar on what could be described as the big ballad of the album. A passionate but understated performance from Ousey, makes this a thoroughly enjoyable track, even though the lyrics are slightly downbeat.
Guitarists Laurie Wisefield and Simon McBride get to show their acoustic guitar skills during the intro to ‘I’ll Take You As You Are’ which shakes the format up a bit before the electric guitar comes in but this song really serves as a vehicle for Ousey to once again showcase his incredible voice. My question here is, would a full acoustic version have been out of the question?
The album ends with another ballady number, ‘Where Do We Go From Here’, which ends up being a somewhat downbeat moment to close on, but it ends an extraordinary record by an extraordinary group of musicians.
You can see the official video for ‘That Kind Of Love’ here:
‘Second Skin’ tracklist:
Sounds Like A Plan
That Kind Of Love
Are You Ready To Fly
Follow Me Under
I’ll Take You As You Are
Hell Of A Way To Live
Dress It Up
Punching Above My Weight
Forgive & Forget
Where Do We Go From Here
Chris Ousey – Vocals
Laurie Wisefield – Guitar/Backing Vocals
Simon McBride – Guitar/Backing Vocals
Neil Murray – Bass Guitar
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards
Harry James – Drums