Strange Karma – Cold Blooded
Release Date: March 17, 2017
I found an immediate fondness for Australia’s Strange Karma when I discovered their debut album, Volume I, in 2014. The record, since renamed America, immediately grabbed me by its resonance with the music of my youth. In an age where so many artists are attempting to tap into the vintage rock sound, Strange Karma is a band that manages to embody the magic of the classic rock period with authenticity. That feeling could not be more fully captured than it is on the group’s latest release, Cold Blooded. Every aspect of Cold Blooded screams ’60s and ’70s classic hard rock crashing headlong into the early ’90s; rather than retro hand-me-downs presented through a modern lens.
Strange Karma was founded by brothers Martin Strange (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Paul Strange (lead guitar). Drummer Jason McDonald was brought into the fold to cement the foundation of the line-up. Strange Karma is a trio born decades after its time, but fortunately, they have arrived in an era when rock so desperately needs an infusion of what made it so visceral and vital to begin with. The band has even released Cold Blooded in a vinyl only format, further tapping into that period when rock and roll was about more than digital singles and when FM radio ruled the airwaves. The only aspect of this record that speaks to a contemporary feel is the production team of Grammy-nominated engineer and producer David Ivory (Halestorm, Silvertide, The Roots, Erykah Badu) and Joe Lam (Halestorm). Despite modern production, there remains a very natural and organic sense to Cold Blooded.
With Cold Blooded, the trio has picked up where Volume I left off, and they have elevated their signature sound to greater heights. Martin’s striking vocal style dips deep into the emotive abyss and then soars into the stratosphere as he tackles each track with genuine passion. Paul’s guitar work dances and winds, capturing the essence of each song and paving a sonic path for Martin’s soulful journey. McDonald anchors it all with understated but precision drumming that has a perfect balance of pocket rhythm and natural swing.
“Devil from the Moon” has been released as the album’s calling card. The track is steeped in moody grooves and a haunting edge. Like every track on this record, what makes this song so powerful is the nuanced elements so tragically missing from much of today’s new music. While there is a video for the track, it almost diminishes the song to watch it, for the music should be soaked in through one’s ears and the mind’s eye rather than the retina.
The band’s sound is often compared to Led Zeppelin with a blend of Queen, and that is an apt description, though it does not fully encompass all that is Strange Karma. The Queen connection can be heard in the style of tracks like “I Believe (London Town),” which vibrates with the spirit of Freddie Mercury, as does the grand and opulent bombast of the album closer, “Dreams.”
The casual, too-cool-to-be-cool vibe of the album opener, “Freedom” serves as a sonic bridge from bands like Zeppelin, Cream and the moodier Rolling Stones albums to the future sound of artists Nirvana and Mother Love Bone. The latter truly comes through on the track “Should Have Seen it Coming” which recalls Andrew Wood at his flamboyant best.
“Crying for Your Love” rolls in on a current of lilting piano and broody fretwork, for a song that recalls the dark melancholy of Zeppelin. This melds nicely with the potent swagger of “Realize” and the poignant drama of “Heartbeat”.
While Cold Blooded taps into many notable and more than a few subtle influences, Strange Karma maintains its own style and sound, and that continuity is the glue that cements this record together. There is not a weak track to be found, and while the tempo seldom varies to any significant degree, the album feels cohesive yet diverse. If music enthusiasts have yet to discover Strange Karma, Cold Blooded, on vinyl no less, is a perfect foray into their charismatic brilliance.