Friday, 22 June 2012

Drive Like Maria Don't Need To Wear Helmets No More

A few years ago Dutch/Belgian rockers Drive Like Maria all of a sudden surprised with their first album Elmwood. The record was full of sturdy stoner and blues rock tracks. Live this was even more of an experience, where they were wearing stunt helmets at the beginning of their show. Then it got quiet, they built a small studio in Italy and started recording new songs.

Drive Like Maria - Drive Like Maria (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Some critics found they didn't have their own sound and were copying too much from other bands. Singer Bjorn Awouters was playing the drums at the same time, which isn't ideal when playing live on stage. So for this album, simply called Drive Like Maria, they got in drummer Bram van den Berg. This worked out very well.

Their sound has developed and got wider, the album sounds more balanced. The songs have more melody and variation. It's not just rock in the highest gear any more, although fortunately there is still plenty of heavy rock left. 'Black Horses' and 'Ghostrider' have great riffs where guitar player Nitzan Hoffmann is showing her skills. It's clear van de Berg is a hard hitter. His grooves sound solid and tight throughout the album, giving bass player Robin van Saaze enough to lean into.

But then it's time to take it more slow. 'On The Road' and 'Bury My Heart In The Desert' are convincing ballads brought with plenty of feeling. 'Howl' featuring Intergalactic Lovers singer Lara Chedraoui and 'Boomerang' show yet another face of the band. Both songs are more radio friendly and could appeal to a wider audience.

Drive Like Maria have made a wise choice. Instead of repeating the same trick, they have taken the time to develop and improve. The band moves onto the next level with their second album. It does feel as if this is just a stop in between and they have a lot more coming. Let's hope so and in the meanwhile enjoy their lively performances.

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