Life in a rock ‘n’ roll band ain’t too easy these days, just ask Edgey Pires and Delila Paz from NYC band The Last Internationale. They released their major label debut album ‘We Will Reign’ to critical acclaim back in 2014. With Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk hitting the skins and
guitarist Tom Morello as their friend and mentor, they toured the world with the likes of Robert Plant, appeared on US prime time TV and did the festival circuit in Europe and America, winning fans for their incendiary live shows.
Call it fate or call it bad luck, but for whatever reason, the hard work never paid off. Shafted by their label and having the record industry slam doors in their faces, momentum was lost. The duo decided to take matters into their own hands, regaining full artistic freedom to record and release their music on their own terms.
After lengthy delays, their sophomore album ‘Soul On Fire’ finally sees the light of day and via PledgeMusic, a vinyl copy landed on my doorstep just in time for Christmas.
As I drop the needle on the rather pretty, light blue marbled wax for the umpteenth time, the jammed intro plays out with rising feedback as Delila proceeds to croon over Edgey’s dirty blues fuelled riffs and drummer Joey Castillo’s powerhouse beats. The three musicians play off each other, seemingly live in the studio, before leading into first song proper ‘Hard Times’, a solid rocker in the vein of ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Indian Blood’ from their debut album.
“I’ve been lost, I’ve been pushed, pulled and turned around” sings Delila. Written during a turbulent time in their career, ‘Soul On Fire’ is the sound of a band with a fire in their bellies, a band with something to say and a band who will not give up the fight.
‘ Mind Ain’t Free’ follows. A retro sounding groove with a modern rock ‘n’ roll twist, that mixes up Jefferson Airplane pop sensibilities with Royal Blood styled grooves…nice! ‘Try Me’ with its stabs of Hammond like keys, lo-fi guitars and a great melody gives a more commercial, yet still classic rock sounding vibe. The vocals draw you into the verse, ready to power out and sing along on the chorus.
Funked up blues workouts like the slide guitar-induced ‘Tempest Blues’ and dirty bass ridden ‘5th World’ are all well and good, but it’s when they mix it up a bit that things really get interesting.
‘Freak Revolution’ closes side one. It’s a dark and foreboding beast that skulks along like the bastard son of Sabbath and Soundgarden. A great chorus refrain that sees Delila preaching the revolution we all need, as Edgey pulls off killer solos behind her.
The title track gets side two up and running with understated acoustic guitars and keys that intertwine with beautiful vocal lines, as it builds to a glorious crescendo of a chorus. Name-checking Jimi, Janis, and Nina Simone, The Last Internationale proudly wear their influences on their sleeves.
‘Need Somebody’ proves to be one of the key tracks on the album. Dark, brooding and with an intensity that slowly builds, but in a different way to ‘Freak Revolution’. With haunting vocals and with just one opening verse, it’s a song that relies on its rousing chorus refrain to see it through, and it’s powerful enough to do the job. It builds like classic Fleetwood Mac meeting Patti Smith on a dusty highway, then takes an unexpected dive into the depths on the soul for the chorus, Trent Reznor style. Cinematic and glorious.
The rocket fuelled ‘Hit Em With Your Blues’ is a signature rocker that aims for the jugular. This is the sound and feel of The Last Internationale in the live arena or the hot sweaty club, vying for your attention.
Side two closes with Delilah acapella, just handclaps accompany her. Live and in one take, like an ancient chain gang work song, a snippet of a stadium-sized tune in its rawest form. It has more power than a wall of Marshalls in Wembley Stadium and that is something special.
It has been said that an artist is at their best when they have to fight for it, when they are down on their luck with something to prove and nothing left to lose. The Last Internationale have delivered the album they wanted to make and more importantly, the album they needed to make.
It doesn’t have the instant, radio-friendly hooks of its predecessor. No, ‘Soul On Fire’ is a darker album that takes time to digest. But with repeated plays, the melodies dig under the skin, dig into the soul and stay there. In time it will be accepted as a modern classic rock record that stands tall against all the competition this year. Do yourself a favour, buy the album, catch them live if you can and join the revolution, you will not be disappointed.
(This album was reviewed from a vinyl copy that was played on an actual record player. No downloads, MP3s or streaming services were used in the creation of this piece.)
Author: Ben Hughes