NO HOT ASHES – No Hot Ashes (2018)
Sometimes good things take a long time to make, like a tasty 12 year old single malt Scotch whisky. In the case of NO HOT ASHES… exactly 34 years. Indeed, this fantastic Northern Irish AOR band will release their debut album, “NHA / No Hot Ashes” via Frontiers Music.
Formed in 1983, they were influenced by all the great bands; Journey, Foreigner, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and Ozzy. They put out their first single ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ in1986. Around this period they landed support slots with Mama’s Boys, Magnum, Girlschool, and more.
No Hot Ashes to sign a record deal with GWR Records in 1988, joining Motorhead, Girlschool and Hawkwind on the roster of talent, recording their first album later that year. The band upped sticks and headed off to London to be nearer to their record company.
Like many, what began with a new hope, ended in disaster, as the album was never released and the group disbanded in 1990.
Fast forward to 2013 when somebody got the brilliant idea to reunite the band for a one-off reunion show. That flame ignited a fire and the band found themselves supporting rock icons like FM, Aerosmith, Foreigner, UFO, and Scorpions.
In 2017, No Hot Ashes returned to the studio to record their first full-length album, carefully guided by FM’s bass player Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Pete Jupp.
While long overdue, the album arrives with some sorrow. Founding member and bass player Paul Boyd succumbed to cancer in the same year. The album is respectfully dedicated to him.
“Come Alive” sounds as vibrant as it should given that they’ve waited three decades to get some tunes out there. A kind of modern take on melodic rock, any similarities to FM are purely intentional given that Merv Goldsworthy and Pete Jupp twiddle the knobs here.
The type of record where the keyboards are as important as the guitar, it is confident and classy AOR stuff.
The same could be said for the rest of it, in truth. There is a touch of Toby Jepson (Fastway, Little Angels) about Eamon Nancarrow’s vocals throughout, but particularly on “Good To Look Back”, while the soaring hook and fine solo will make you wonder why they left it so long.
“Satisfied” with its knowing sass, is a masterclass in how to do mature melodic hard rock – and yes, fists are meant to go in the air here – while the AOR ballad “Boulders” is rare in its poetry and introspection.
About halfway through the record comes – perhaps – its key moment.
“I’m Back” (irony in the title probably intended) begins with an exultant scream. Whether it’s the glee of finally getting this out only they know, but crikey, it sounds like it might be.
Like all the best music of this type, there is a pulse, a crunch and a throb about “NHA”. “Glow” has all those things, and still sounds slick.
“Over Again” on the other hand, gets bonus points for three things. 1) starting with a solo – always ace 2) Big, unashamed harmonies and 3) A Thin Lizzy style twin solo at the end.
“Johnny Redhead” is essentially the best song Little Angels didn’t get on their debut, and “Souls” not only tells the story of a small-town girl (probably in a lonely world) and a small-town boy (where he was born and raised is unclear) but also has hints of Journey just in case you weren’t sure.
It finishes in just about the same strident fashion it began. Aptly, “Running Red Lights” shows everyone a clean pair of heels before heading for the horizon as fast as it can. Just like pure melodic hard rock should, frankly.
Forget the back story, if “NHA” was a debut record by a new band it’d be lauded as special. Add in everything that happened along the way to No Hot Ashes and it becomes exceptional.
This is pure ’80s sounding stuff, from songwriting to production. What I like about this is that it’s been more than 3 decades in the making, and it sounds like that have given blood, sweat and tears to every song.
They have not overplayed it either, and at just 10 tracks (plus a bonus), there is not a filler in sight, when they could have had a tendency to put 15 songs on it, and make it a bit ‘meh!’
It’s a lovely album all over, classy Melodic Rock / AOR, and one of my favorites this year so far.
01 – Come Alive
02 – Good to Look Back
03 – Satisfied
04 – Boulders
05 – I’m Back
06 – Glow
07 – Over Again
08 – Jonny Redhead
09 – Souls
10 – Running Red Lights
11 – I Will (Bonus Track)
Eamon Nancarrow (Vocals)
Niall Diver, Davey Irvine (Guitars)
Paul Boyd (Bass)
Tommy Dickson (Keyboards)
Steve Strange (Drums)
Pat (The Professor) McManus – Fiddle on ‘I Will’