Seattle-based blues-rock outfit Walking Papers return with their 3rd album ‘The Light Below’, the follow up to their 2018 album ‘WP2’.  Singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Jeff Angell and keyboard player Benjamin Anderson may have lost bassist Duff McKagan and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin along the way due to touring commitments, but that hasn’t stopped the duo from moving forward with their brand of blues-based art rock and taking their sound to another dimension along the way.

Joining the duo on this new album are drummer Will Andrews, bassist Dan Spalding, and guitar player Tristan Hart Pierce.


If you are unaware of Walking Papers, let’s get one thing straight, they are not a party band. They may have Guns n’ Roses and Pearl Jam connections, but Messrs Angell and Anderson have not produced an album of anthemic, stadium rock to take their fans’ minds off a Pandemic ravaged world. What they have delivered is an epic album of pure escapism that takes them far away from their post-Grunge, blues rock beginnings.

‘The Light Below’ is an atmospheric and captivating album from the off and it draws the listener in, unlike either of their previous offerings. Opener ‘The Value Of Zero’ rides on downbeat, tribal rhythms and swathes of electronica. ‘Ultra’-era Depeche Mode springs immediately to mind, this is not the dusty, Seattle blues rock of their previous incarnation, this is dark and foreboding rock music that skulks along in the dark waiting to pounce.

The previous single ‘What Did You Expect?’ follows, “I never promised to be an Angel’ croons Angell over fuzzy guitars and dance beats. Imagine if Trent Reznor had collided with ‘Full Moon Over Dirty Hearts’ era INXS and took them further down the spiral…yes, it’s a 90’s alternative rock thing and that’s a good place to be.


Two songs in and I’m pretty much blown away already, intrigued and excited for what is to follow. And what does follow is, what I can only describe as a masterpiece. ‘Divine Intervention/Stood Up At The Gates Of Heaven’ is the centerpiece of the album. Originally written as one piece of music, it has been split into two for this album. The full, epic 12-minute version was released recently along with a dark, David Lynch inspired video that fits the feel of the song perfectly. Picked, bluesy guitars, pulsating bass that reverberates deep down to the bottom of the soul, and brooding, whisky-soaked vocals that sit somewhere between Ian Astbury and Trent Reznor. The sprawling, cinematic ‘Divine Intervention’ documents Angell’s ongoing ‘conversations’ with departed spirits, and features Stone Temple Pilots Dean DeLeo’s masterful guitar work.

The segue into ‘’Stood Up At The Gates Of Heaven’ is magnificent, the pulsating hypnotic beat enraptures the listener for the entirety. For me, this is what music is all about. This is an album to get lost in, an album to drift away with. With clever use of dynamics, Angell creates soundscapes to enthrall, all you have to do is put on your headphones to block out the world, close your eyes and let the songwriter take you on a trip to another dimension.

Each song is like an all-encompassing art piece, each one different but all following the same theme. The structures, the sonics and the dynamics of each cleverly thought out and played out to complement the other within the context of the album that flows as one whole work of art.

With swathes of Hammond ‘Going Nowhere’ has a gothic, almost ethereal feel to it. Sparse instrumentation, minimal drums, and clever use of space leave room for the singer to work some magic, and the surprise addition of some sexy sax gives a soulful INXS vibe.

At over 9 minutes, ‘Creation, Reproduction and Death’ is a sexually charged, dancerama of darkness. A trip through life towards death, did you take the red or the blue pill? They even tinker with jazz on ‘The Other Shoe (Reprise)’, an instrumental sidestep where unexpected but welcoming sax joins pumping bass and tribal rhythms.

Jeff Angell has mastered the fine art of storytelling on this third opus and he shows us he can still sing the blues on the last two offerings. ‘Where Did I Go Wrong?’ is a bluesy confessional accompanied by warm, clean guitar chords and subtle background keys. And closer ‘California (One More Phone Call)’ is a Black Crowes style ballad. A vocal on the verge of cracking, a love letter, a goodbye to a lover, delivered with conviction and passion, mixed with subdued Hammond chords and little else is all that is needed to leave the listener with a sense of yearning. But a yearning for what? Maybe it’s just to press play and do it all again.


I must admit I went into this review expecting an average, dare I say it ‘classic rock’ album, based on the band’s past output. Little did I expect to be drawn in to an expansive album that ticks all the boxes for what I want from music in 2021. Angell and Anderson have taken their band far from their roots and created a sound that is modern, progressive and dark, full of electronica but rooted in the classic. Overall, I can honestly say ‘The Light Below’ is utterly mesmerizing and completely spellbinding. I know it’s early days, but I feel we may have a contender for album of the year already.


Buy the album Here



Author: Ben Hughes