Today I have the pleasure of introducing The Underground Vault, a fine rock band from London, England. They play a bluesy style of rock that’s hard and raw, with a bit of an old-school late 60s-early 70s vibe that calls to my mind such greats as Eric Clapton, Deep Purple and Ten Years After. Following up on the success of their 2017 debut EP Dawnbreaker, on September 15 they dropped their second EP In the Water, delivering six hard-driving tracks that solidify their status as a band on the rise. Making the noise are Blair Dollery on lead guitar & vocals, Jamie Dove on guitar, Pete Sadler on bass, and Dan Young on drums.
The EP opens strong with hammering drums and gnarly riffs announcing the arrival of “Colt.” Dollery snarls the dark lyrics warning an apparently very bad person that their days are numbered: “Got this gun in my hand. Gonna shoot you as fast as I can.” I’m not sure whether it’s Dollery, Dove or both who play the blistering riffs in the finale, but they’re fantastic. The guys rock and roll on “Everymans Fantasy,” a rousing song about a woman who’s driving him crazy with desire: “You’re in my dreams. I’m on my knees. You’re everyman’s fantasy.”
The band really settles into their groove by the third track “In the City.” This tune rocks the hell out, with an arresting melody that hooks us in from the get-go. Dollery and Dove set the airwaves aflame with scorching riffs of gnashing and wailing guitars, while Sadler’s humming bass and Young’s pounding drumbeats keeps things grounded. Dollery’s raw, passionate vocals at times are as fierce as the wailing guitars, raising goosebumps. “Heal the Wounds” delivers more hard-driving melodic rock with fuzzy riffs and lots of soaring vocal harmonies.
All the frustrations and angst seem to reach the boiling point on the hard-rocking “Love is Hate.” With exasperation in his voice, Dollery shouts the lyrics: “Going out, going out tonight. Getting drunk. Gonna have a fight. God you are getting on my nerves. It’s the end, it’s the end I suppose. Love is hate. Love is freedom. Love is hate. Keeps us human.” The fast-paced guitar work, deep bass and pummeling drums on this track are really terrific.
The guys save the best for last with the standout title track “In the Water” a beautiful song that’s also my favorite on the EP. It starts off with a more relaxed cadence than the other tracks, with layers of gorgeous multi-textured guitars floating above a solid buzzing bass line, and accompanied by a military-type drumbeat. Dollery’s vocals are heartfelt as he sings about loss, possibly of a relationship that’s broken beyond repair: “Reach for the sky. Truth can not lie. All our dreams will be dead in the water. Drifting at sea, only you, only me. All our dreams will be dead in the water.” A little more than halfway into the track, the pace quickens, cymbals crash and guitars wail for about a minute, then everything slows back down for a while before cranking back up for a dramatic finish. It’s an epic song, and a perfect ending to a stellar EP.