Acouple of months ago a debate raged in these very pages about the state of rock.
Was it busted? (Broadly, no.) Did it have a future? (Yes, although one that would be fairly unrecognisable on anything other than a musical level.) Should we all just pack up and go home? (Absolutely not.) But if there was lesson to be taken from it all, it was this: for all the do-it-yourself- social-meeja-cap-in-hand-pledging goatfuckery, the future – as the past – is predicated entirely on The Song. Write a bunch of good tunes and you’ve got a head start. Don’t, and you may as well sign up for burger-flipping classes at night school right now.
All of which means that Cage The Gods couldn’t have arrived at a more interesting time. Two decades ago their slick, gleaming, unashamedly traditional hard rock would have been a shoo-in for a Top 20 album chart placing and a late-afternoon slot at the Monsters Of Rock festival. Today? It won’t be a walk in the park, for sure. But their debut album suggests they’ve got more going for ’em than most.
On paper, Cage The Gods sound like the start of a bad joke: there is, quite literally, an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman in the band. Given such regional DNA, it’s more than a little ironic that Badlands sounds so American, from its title down. In this case ‘American’ is no bad thing – the freewheeling chorus of Sacrifice pitches itself somewhere circa Headbangers Ball in 1989, while the jagged riffs of the title track are more evocative of the great Midwest than of the Giant’s Causeway.
More importantly, Cage The Gods have the sort of confidence that’s lacking in many of their peers on this side of the pond. Scott Gorham-alike frontman Peter Commerford has the sort of lung-busting rasp (and mildly disconcerting mid-Atlantic twang) that could carry the pumped-up blues of Bruce Willis and the epic balladry of Falling (one of the album’s highlights, alongside Sacrifice) to the back seats of an arena, should they ever reach that point. A wet Wednesday in Wigan this ain’t.
Of course, there are no safe bets any more, and the road to success is paved with the corpses of the bands that have tried and failed. Yet while Cage The Gods might not be reinventing any wheels here, there’s no arguing with the fact that they have the swagger, the ambition and – yes – the songs to stand a better chance than most. Those burger-flipping classes will have to wait.