All associations with The Sword or even Doom Side of the Moon can be left at the door when listening to Kyle Shutt’s first proper album as a solo artist. His self-titled debut is a slice of no-nonsense rock and roll that’s basic in construction and raw in delivery. It’s the sort of bare-bones material that aims for a live vibe despite the one-man recording method and while I would hardly call it a throwback, I hear a whole lot of AC/DC influence buzzing about.
With this in mind, the musicianship is competent though obvious in where his talents lie. This is most definitely a guitar-driven album; there’s nothing technical by any means but his crackly tone has the appropriate muscle and his bluesy licks are on point. His vocals are also pretty solid, offering a scruffy character that doesn’t have the most range or personality but ultimately gets the job done. I even find myself wondering what The Sword would’ve been like if he had been the one singing instead…
Inversely, the audiophile in me finds something off about the drumming. The beats are the basic four to the floor stuff one would expect but they feel somewhat stiff. I’m not sure if they were programmed or just roughly mixed, but it does diminish the album’s organic vibe in spots. It’s especially egregious on “Set You All on Fire” where the almost electronic beat that runs throughout the song suddenly drowns everything else as it picks up speed.
The album may also be a little too basic for its own good when it comes to the songwriting. While the songs are all varied enough to keep from getting dull, they’re all built on variations of simple riffs and straightforward vocal lines. Such arrangements live and die by the musicians’ energy and charisma and while there is dry humor in the delivery, it could stand to be more engaging. There’s something to be said for a raw approach, but this album feels unrealized at times.
Fortunately, there’s still some promising material here. “Awake” shakes things up at the midway point with a series of methodical chords, grungy vocals, and creeping synths all set to ominously building toms. “Stronger than the Earth” and “No Reply” also make for a smooth closing pair as the former slows things down to a scaled-back blues rhythm and the latter follows up with psychedelic acoustic introspection.
In its current form, Kyle Shutt’s debut album plays more like an incredibly professional demo. The style is inherently enjoyable, and it sounds like he had a lot of fun strutting his stuff, but the compositions and performances feel more like skeletons to be spruced up by additional players than complete recordings. I imagine he wasn’t looking to do anything too flashy, but I can also imagine these songs sounding a lot stronger in a live setting. Listeners looking for some straight-up rock should get something out of this, but a group like The Cocaine Wolves scratches that itch a little better for me.
“Stronger than the Earth”