Article and interview by Matt Nijland.
30 March 2020.
Header photo credits: ByEvanCaptures
Bona-fide leader of The Nation
Listen to Zakk’s interview about the band here
Hard rock’s return to world domination
The Nation in formation: (L-R) Leroux Engelbrecht (bass guitar), Zakk Styles (vocals and rhythm guitar), Henry Viljoen (drums) and Brendan Forer (lead guitar). Photo credits: ByEvanCaptures.
Listen to Zakk’s interview about “Born To Rock” here
Album review: An eleven-track rock ‘n roll trip with some pleasant surprises
Black Bone Nation’s latest full-length release, “Born To Rock”, was officially fully released a few days ago on the 26th of March, but it had been making a significant impact even before then.
At the time of writing this article, the album’s lead single “Born To Rock” is already charting at number 8 on the Clip Hard Rock Chart on Kovsie 97.0 FM (and at the time of publishing, it has already climbed to number 6), with chart co-host Christi Olivier describing it as “strong AC/DC vibes that she really hopes catches on here in South Africa”. Their third single off the album, “Here I Am”, is simultaneously charting at number 2 on the Banks Radio Australia Top 15. Their music video for “Born To Rock” (check it out on this page) has already racked up over 1200 views since its release on 21 February. These are all signs that the world has been longing for this follow-up original release of the band’s for quite some time now – and the fans are loving it!
I was lucky enough to have an early pre-release listen to the album before interviewing Zakk, and I was very impressed, firstly, with the amazing production quality. The production partnership of Zakk with Stevie Bester (one of the best sound engineers and producers in SA in my opinion – my band 3’s and 7’s also had the privilege of working with him) really paid off well. The crisp, clean production makes each song stand out as really anthemic, powerful and in your face – the way good old fashioned rock ‘n roll should be! Local producers working on international releases for local bands really is testament to the enormous amount of talent the South African music scene has and how it deserves so much international accreditation.
Secondly, I very much enjoyed the songwriting and guitar work on the album. Zakk and the boys delivered on exactly what they promise to do – melt our faces and burst our eardrums with tasty riffs, wah-laden solos and hooky choruses that we can sing along to! My favourite riffs on the album are definitely “Born To Rock” (epic signature title track – again, be sure to check out their just as awesome music video for the song), “Here I Am” (not only is the riff really infectious, but listen out for Zakk’s mind-blowing vocal delivery in the choruses!) and “All For Tomorrow” (I personally got a strong early Smashing Pumpkins vibe from it which, though not apparently intentional at all by the band, made my lingering teenage angst quiver with delight).
As I mentioned, there are a few surprises on the album. The first being the piano- based rock ballad “Million Miles”, which was not only unexpected for a Black Bone Nation album and song in general, but also amazing because Zakk actually bought himself a piano just to learn how to play it for the record! (Listen to the second podcast above for the full story) Another surprise, and another favourite song of mine on the album, is the twangy, country-Western acoustic-based track “Magic Man”, which gave me some R.E.M. acoustic vibes with a darker, heavier edge (anyone who knows me knows I am OBSESSED with R.E.M., so saying something reminds me of that band is one of the highest musical compliments you can get from me). I also really enjoyed how the band weren’t afraid to experiment with instrumental tracks on the album, and the closing track, “Deaf Forever”, really stood out for me with the way the song gets increasingly layered with catchy guitar harmonies – a hard rock orchestra!
Overall, this album is really exciting, cohesive, well-produced, and deserves every bit of the local and international credit it’s getting. Well done boys, and I’m very excited to see what the future holds for Black Bone Nation! Be sure to steam the album on all major streaming platforms (you can find all the links under the album cover above).
About the Author: Matt Nijland
Matt joined the SA Guitarist team as a journalist and editor in February 2020. He is also well-known as the lead guitarist and band manager of the South African alternative rock band 3’s and 7’s. He is very passionate about the local music scene and hopes that SA Guitarist will draw more attention to it on a local and international scale. Click the red text to visit Matt’s social media pages on Instagram: @matthewnijland and Facebook, and follow his musical journey and muses.