Andy Biersack is the epitome of unstoppable. From handling the constant shit-talk, for what Black Veil Brides is, from fellow musicians and music fans alike (I, myself, was guilty of judging by the looks before even hearing the music) to the pressure of touring and living it up to expectations about new music, he still hasn’t stopped for a minute.
It doesn’t look like he can be stopped any time soon: BVB album #5 is on the way, a new thriller called American Satan starring Andy is in the works, he wed Juliet Simms taking their ultimate rock and roll couple status to the next level, and is about to embark on a tour under the Andy Black moniker in support of his first solo record The Shadow Side – which we’re here to discuss now.
If you love the heavy sound of Black Veil Brides this album might not be your piece of cake, however, it is not pure pop either. The Shadow Side is a dark, alternative effort that shows how good it is for artists to practice creative freedom without compromising what they’ve previously built up. Plus, it has a long list of guest appearances by all your favourites from the rock scene.
“Homecoming King” is a movie score-like intro to the album featuring wife Juliet Simms on backing vocals (she appears several times throughout the record) and a pretty cool guitar line during the chorus. It leads to the first song we got to hear prior release: if you listen carefully, “We Don’t Have To Dance” could easily pass as a PVRIS song, which makes me love it even more. The “It’s so nice to meet you. Let’s never meet again” line is so on point.
Do you know The Mortal Instruments books and the movie? Remember the scenes where the characters walk into the vampire lair or Magnus Bane’s Downworlder-party? That is the track “Ribcage” – an electronic yet pretty much goth party song. Wouldn’t be surprised if Zedd himself worked on it.
“Stay Alive” is where childhood dreams are coming to life with having Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio, blink-182) on guest vocals. Conveniently, it’s also the song about fighting the through bad times in life in hope of something better.
The middle of an album is usually when most of us loose attention. These few songs here will need more time to grow on the listener: “Beautiful Pain” has a grand chorus though. Along with “Put The Gun Down” as the instrumental parts remind me of new The Summer Set songs and it results in an interesting contrast with Andy’s signature deep voice. Definitely not something I’ve expected but I don’t hate it either. The theatrical and anthemic “Drown Me Out” gets rid of the mid-record bleakness with the first beat; becoming one of the highlights – Ashton Irwin from 5SOS plays drums on this one. “Louder Than Your Love” is another big favourite. Co-written by Gerard Way + Mikey Way on the bass, this is almost a My Chemical Romance reunion! Let them champagnes pop!
The last two songs have a more melancholic vibe compared to the rest: “Broken Pieces” is like a haunting daydream on a rainy day – I love this quality – while “The Void” kills it as the grandiose closing track. From marching drum beats, through a powerful guitar solo, to the symphonics, it’s a huge rock opera that makes up for the less energetic, or yet not so favourite moments of the record as a whole.
Conclusion: The Shadow Side may not be perfect (what is, anyway) but it’s a damn great one for a first solo effort. You know when producer John Feldmann & team’s hands are in a record, yet this time it also feels more experimental. Also, I can’t help but wonder how an Andy Black gig would look and sound like – bitter-sweet fact is, I’ve got a Brighton beach music vacation planned when the UK tour hits London later this month.
How can I carry on, carry on without you?