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Idols Are Higher - "Saturnalia" (CD)

Idols Are Higher - "Saturnalia" CD cover image

"Saturnalia" track listing:

1. Hypomnesia
2. M.I.H.
3. Fear The Strange
4. Hells Child
5. Kept Behind The Line
6. Left To Design
7. Inamorata
8. Blood On The Hands

Reviewed by on May 15, 2010

"Singer Shaun Dillon's got a voice like Dave Grohl's in the sense that it can go from pop-pure to something a little grittier, and it's the driving force in 'M.I.H.' and the superb 'Fear The Strange.' "

As the genre's first Guitar God says: "Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music." That Chuck Berry quote comes to mind when listening to Idols Are Higher's "Saturnalia," an album full of mostly straight-ahead rockers in the mold of the Foo Fighters. To put it plainly, this is pop-rock that pops.

Things start out with a pop-infused punk-metal vibe on "Hypomnesia" before settling down into a riff that's incredibly reminiscent of Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." Guitarists Martin Williamson and Peter Casey have an appealing heavy-but-light vibe throughout, and the sublimely sloppy guitar break at the end of this track plenty of fun.

Singer Shaun Dillon's got a voice like Dave Grohl's in the sense that it can go from pop-pure to something a little grittier, and it's the driving force in "M.I.H." and the superb "Fear The Strange." Of course, "Fear The Strange" also has a great guitar break that goes from blues to early Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The band cites Whitesnake as an influence, and you can hear that in the verses of "Hells Child," even though it goes to a punkier place in the chorus. Drummer Phil Bell gets some great fills on this one.

"Kept Behind The Line" takes us into full-on Foo Fighters space, which isn't such a bad thing. It's followed by "Left To Design," which starts heavy and then turns into pop-rock, with Dillon adding a bit of welcome grit to his vocals. "Left To Design" does have the best guitar solo, a bluesy romp reminiscent of Angus Young in some ways.

The acoustic-in-the-beginning "Inamorata" isn't a bad track, but it does drain the album of energy near the end. The electric sections, including another great solo, do quite a bit to replenish that energy, but the song ends acoustically.

"Blood On The Hands," which closes the album has a great, doo-woppy "bap-baaa-da" opening and punky guitars with a metal edge to them. It's a nice little bopper that ends the disc in style.

On the downside, some of the production's a bit tinny — perhaps made deliberately so in keeping with the garage rock vibe that permeates the disc. Still, it does rob the guitars of a bit of heft in areas they could have used it, and Mark Osborne's bass lines also suffer a bit from it.

It's hardly the heaviest thing you'll hear, but Idols Are Higher's "Saturnalia" certainly offers up a nice dose of straight-ahead rock, tinged with bits of punk and metal. You may not be banging your head all the time, but it'll keep your toes tapping.

Highs: "Fear The Strange," "Hells Child" and "Blood On The Hands."

Lows: A few minor sequencing and production quibbles.

Bottom line: A great straight-ahead rock album with hints of punk and metal in the mix.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)