(4 / 5)
An extremely accomplished debut album from hard rockers Kiss The Gun – a very promising and powerful new British, female-fronted five piece. This is incendiary but melodic stuff, with a singer who has balls as big as the males in the band, in respect of the power in her vocal.
Plenty of light and shade between the in-yer-face songs and the more laid back stuff. Palpable chemistry too, from singer Nadin Zakharian, bassist Dave South, drummer Rob Taylor, lead guitarist Gerry Hearn and rhythm guitarist Graham Exton.
A formidable line-up, and this really doesn’t sound like a debut album; more like a third or fourth release from a very established outfit at the top of their game. But this line-up has only been in existence since earlier this year.
The band was first born at Dave’s place in Salisbury in January 2016. Dave and Graham wrote a song called “Tainted Heart” – track seven here – and in a couple of hours had a demo that was uploaded to Soundcloud. That demo was heard by a studio and label owner, who reached out and wanted the band to cut an EP; the band was born and recorded at Smokehouse Studios in London, on two days in April 2016.
A new line-up with Georgia-based Nadin coming in to front the band as lead singer, was announced in April 2017, after Dave spotted Nadin on-line and contacted her with an offer to join the band. After hearing early demos, she grabbed the opportunity with both hands and flew in to the UK from Tbilisi for recording sessions. Already well known in her native Georgia, having made it to the semi-finals of TV shows “Talented” in 2011 and “The Voice Of Georgia” in 2013.
At the age of 12, Nadin started practicing vocals and fundamentals of music theory. Her “System Of A Down” cover versions on YouTube have attracted more than one and a half million views and generated multiple international collaboration opportunities.
Once she was on board, they cut the whole 10 track album in five days in London. Instant chemistry and mutual respect among the five. The record produced by the whole band. Seven songs written by Dave South, one South/Exton co-write and two from Hearn/Zakharian.
Nadin’s vocals grab the attention from the first notes of track one, “Into The Fire”, until the final note of the last track, “From The Night”. The overall sound of the record put me in mind of Grammy-winning US rock band Evanescence and their superb singer Amy Lee at first, but after hearing the whole thing, perhaps you can add a few sticks of Semtex. Theirs is a slap round the chops, Kiss the Gun deliver a leather clad fist in the guts. There is another UK band with a killer female rock singer doing this kind of thing too at this time; Mohawk Radio and the excellent Mia Page. They and KTG, Mia and Nadin, all setting the bar pretty high.
The band pack a bloody big punch on this album. Blistering lead guitar, solid as a rock concrete foundation of bass, drums and second guitar; a Premier Division rhythm section indeed. (Not on this album, but drummer Rob Taylor also plays trombone…how many drummers do we know who could put the sticks and hot rods down, and potentially pick up a flipping trombone in the middle of a rock gig? Love it…)
Bass Guitar – Dave South: Dave started out playing drums at the age of 11, but swapped drums for bass guitar when he joined his first serious band, playing on the original NWOBHM circuit. In the 90s, Dave changed direction, writing dance/club music and was signed to a record label, writing and recording in top studios around London. He then joined a number of local bands in Salisbury, playing a mixture of covers and original material.
Drums (and trombone) – Rob Taylor: Rob has been playing drums for 11 years. He recently moved back home after a two-year stint playing trombone on cruise ships, and is currently working as a semi-professional musician in the South of England. He finished his degree in classical music performance on tenor trombone at Trinity College of Music in 2014.
Lead Guitar – Gerry Hearn: Gerry learned to play at 14 and was gigging just after his 15th birthday. He’s toured throughout Europe with Uriah Heep, Jessie J, Pixie Lott and comedian Freddie Starr, and even part of a Gary Moore tribute band. He’s also had a highly successful teaching career, his clients going on to play on the worldwide stage.
Rhythm Guitar – Graham Exton: Graham has been playing guitar for 30 years, in original and cover bands, initially in the St Albans area and along the South Coast of England, after moving to Salisbury in the early 90s.
The title cut is a standout, especially the vocal and the lead guitar work. “Writing On The Wall”, features some Lizzy-style twin guitar. It’s pretty cool, even if it does nod heavily towards Lynott’s legendary band’s sound and song structure.
There is a fair bit of a Lizzy and Wishbone Ash influence across the record on the guitars, methinks. That’s a good thing! A big arena sound, and guitar nerds will get all hot and bothered about Hearn and Exton.
“Run Run Run”, is a commercial cut. Got to say that the mix on the drums on some of the tracks, especially the opener, is a wee bit’ limp’ and needed far more bottom end, more ooomph on the snare and as a whole, to cut through the track far more.
The acoustic guitars sound gorgeous on the beautifully stripped-back ballad, “Drowning”, and Nadin’s vocal is well controlled. The track ends a bit too early for me, at just over three minutes. A Prog’ feel on the penultimate track, “Higher and Higher”, which has synth/keyboards on it, as does other parts of this record, but no credits for that instrument on the CD cover/booklet or PR bumph. Lovely guitar skills on this track. Another quite commercial track for the closer, “From The Night”.
Not sure about the name of the band in the current climate of violence and mass shootings in the USA and around the world, but these four guys and one gal are most certainly ones to watch on the rock scene, under any name.
Destined for big things; if the impact and quality of this debut album is any barometer. There’s definitely a gap in the market for this type of act/sound and this British outfit could well fill it. Roll on that “difficult second album”…and I’d really like to hear what an experienced producer and fresh pair of ears could bring to the party.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’