Blacklist Union has been around since 2004, when the band was formed by vocalist and guitarist Tony West (the same West who took on lead-vocal duties for LA Guns for a while a couple of years ago). Playing what might best be described as hard alternative rock, the band has built a solid following in their home-base of Los Angeles as well as around the world. “Til Death Do Us Part” is the band’s third release, and it is definitely an album that stands out from the crowd: no run of the mill, paint-by-numbers rock’n’roll here – this is an album that goes a lot deeper than that.
The music has some of the street-wise strut and ferocity displayed by Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue in their glory days, with (surprising but very effective) flashes of David Bowie and even The Cure shooting through here and there. And once you let the bone-heavy rock’n’roll riffs and West’s raw and edgy vocals lure you in, you soon discover that there’s a lot of depth and darkness lurking beneath the surface in each and every tune.
First track “Til Death Do Us Part” – about promises that are given but not always kept (“you vowed till death do us part”) – is a great example of this. The tune is sharpened by a real sense of personal pain and loss, baring a dark and bleeding heart beneath its hard-rocking exterior.
That emotional intensity runs through the whole album. It bleeds through even on the hooky and rock-swaggering “Alabama Slammer” which is an awesome, straight-up rocker of a tune, given the perfect rough and jagged edge by West’s vocals. This track is a stunner, with “possible breakthrough hit” written all over it.
Next up is the slower and evocative “Blown Away” which is one of my favorite tracks on “Til Death Do Us Part”. It has a dreamy, spacey intro, and West’s vocals are given a hollow, haunting echo that adds to the track’s mesmerizing, trippy feel.
Other standout tracks include the rough and rugged “Same Ol’ Pressure”, starting off with a heavy, old-school riff (flashing a brief Led Zeppelin tone) and then coming on with a real rocking and rolling kick; and the catchy “Diggin’ 4 Gold” with its heavy guitar barrage, and sharp lyrics clawing at the underbelly of a fame- and wealth-obsessed society.
Final track “I Don’t Love You Anymore” is another kick-ass tune – going slightly brighter with some infectious chords, and West’s vocals soaring high – perfectly blending the painful shadows in the lyrics with a glimpse of redemption and hope.
While a couple of the tracks here didn’t grab me, this is still an album that leaves a lasting impression. The musical craftsmanship is top-notch, and the lyrics – delivered with West’s expressive vocals and occasional rock’n’roll snarl – add a depth and seductive darkness to the tunes that draws you in and makes you want to come back for more.
- Tony West: vocals, guitar
- With (among others):
- Hunt Sales
- Anthony “Trouble” Valli
- Todd Youth
- Til Death Do Us Part
- Alabama Slammer
- Blown Away
- Game Over
- Same Ol’ Pressure
- Diggin’ 4 Gold
- Feed The Snakes
- I Do
- Don’t Change
- The Lick Kitty Split Theme Song
- I Don’t Love You Anymore
(This review was originally published at Hard Rock Nights.)