Black Swan - Shake the World

Black Swan Shake the World cover
Black Swan
Shake the World
Frontiers Music srl
Actually after the recent health scare involving vocalist Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group/Fest, Grand Prix and more), I was happy to see that he came out of it fit and back on top of things, when under other circumstances he would have been fighting for his life…
Secondly, whoever came up with the idea of bringing together Black Swan (either one of its members, or it might have been one of the Frontiers headwigs, needs a pat in the back). There’s not enough Robin in the world and having him collaborate with guitarist extraordinaire Reb Beach (Winger, Whitesnake), bassist Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, The End Machine, ex-Dokken and a gazillion others) and drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley, Mr. Big) not only looks good on paper, but also sounds great in reality. It’s not just a collection of great talent, but actually a band that seems to have chemistry and a bunch of great songs to support their debut album.
The title track, “Shake the World”, begins with a rather mean sounding riff and while it lightens up a bit, it’s hard hitting and gritty lyrics, give it a modern day Dio-esque air, which really fits… it’s heavier that you would probably expect from a guy that’s made a career mostly out of his awesome balladeering, but he’s not alone in this, so it might have been up to the rest of them as well. Beach, left alone, just dails in some cool riff and when he solos – it’s just pure delight, while them rhythm guys are not slouching either. And despite the heavier edge, the message of the song is quite positive and uplifting, all about seizing the day and trying to change the world for the better.
“Big Disaster” is also quite appropriate… more melodic and mid-tempo, with a heavy riff and rhythm and Robin, just walking all over it, with great gusto. It easily bests what he’s been singing for Schenker in recent times, by a large margin.
“Johnny Came Marching” is another heavy rocker, which slows down even more, but the more it does, the heavier it gets. Robin rides the heavy groove with a great vocal that’s a million bucks. It’s probably about pts that shell shocked troops carry back home and how it really eats people from the inside and can lead to dark outcomes. Both a great and meaningful song.
The album manages to walk the line between hard rock and melodic metal, without ever crossing onto one or the other side or losing its footing and it keeps on moving. “Immortal Souls” sweetens down a bit, without turning into a ballad. It’s more like a song of longing and love, which feels like a letter from the older to the younger Robin to deliver to his lady friend… or wife I suppose in this case, or otherwise, we might be in trouble!
“Make It There” is a ballad, if you will with a big electric solo thrown in there, about a couple that’s already tied the knot, I guess, but is going through a rough patch… so while I can’t relate I can appreciate the sincerity of it, even if it’s all based on fantasy for all I know.
“She’s on to Us” is a hard and heavy rock ‘n rolling number, with really tongue in cheek lyrics that could be interpreted in more than one ways…
Speaking of RnR, “The Rock that Rolled Away” is drier and speedier, with some Satrianesque overnotes (when he was vocal with some songs) and goes down, easily which is not something I could say about the “Long Road to Nowhere” that follows, with its title, sounding a bit ironic. It’s not terrible, but it was the first song that didn’t impress me much, with probably the solo being my favorite moment.
“Sacred Place” is not exactly a ballad, but a powerful melodic song with some excellent leads and build. It’s cut almost from the same cloth of the type of stuff that made Robin a bit of a household name back in the day. What a song, what a solo… what the hell, I’ll probably stop my mouth breathing and hyperventilating before I make a complete fool of a fanboy out of myself.
The strings that introduce “Unless We Change” are a decoy in case you thought; it was going to be a second ballad in a row. It’s a song that also “prays” for global change” and just like the opener it’s got a Dioesque charm about it, but it does go from rocking to mellow and back again. It’s great anyway you cut it though…
Last but certainly not least, is “Divided/United”, which is an interesting song. A dynamic song that is alluded that JP wrote after watching “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the biopic about Queen. While it doesn’t quite manage to capture the scope and greatness of those chaps, it manages to smartly incorporate a number of their trademarks in a BS song, which doesn’t feel out of place as a closer on this wonderful album.
If you’re fans of classic rock that borders on metal, and fancy bands like Rainbow, Foreigner, Scorpions and the like, then this album should make you all smiley, fuzzy and warm inside! Way to go!