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VIRGIL & THE ACCELERATORS The Radium Mystic Records MYSCD205(2011)

Virgil And The Accelerators

Taking its name from a South African beer hall where a very young Virgil McMahon first heard the music of his calling, 'The Radium' by Virgil & The Accelerators is the most impressive debut album by a young band that I've heard in years.

It's so rare for any band to work up the kind of intensity levels that make this album such a fire cracker. The licks, the grooves, the songs and a lively but classy mix allied with Virgil's tough vocal are all that you could ever want from an album like this.

And while the lyrics are for the most part the old retro rock school of hand me down clichés about 'bad girls' etc, it simply doesn't matter because Virgil McMahon's guitar playing is right up there with the best of them.

Better still, his impossibly young band - brother Gabriel on drums is barely 17 - back him to the hilt and the result is 5 star cracker that must rank as one of the most impressive debut albums in recent times.

Virgil's come a long way since being discovered in Wales by Otis Grand at the tender age of 12.

Encouraged by Kim Wilson, mentored by Joe Bonamassa and after touring with Joanne Shaw Taylor, he's ready to make his mark. Together with his road tested power trio, it was never a question of if, but rather when, though there was the outstanding little concern about the band song writing ability.

'The Radium' answers all the questions and more as the album is quite simply a triumph because it captures all the good things about an up and coming band who are seemingly oblivious to their studio surroundings let alone their fans fast growing expectations.

Sure there are derivative moments with echoes of Bonamassa's gnawing riffs on 'Cold Hearted Woman', some exuberant Philip Sayce style guitar mangling on 'Fell To the Floor' and plenty of Stoney Curtis style intense riffery on both 'Bad Girls' and on the wah wah inflected, psychedelic tinged 'The Storm'.

There's even room for some post-Zeppelin, Black Country Communion style dirge on 'Fell To The Floor' and touches of ZZ Top on 'Cold Hearted Woman'.

Hell, in his most vivacious moments Virgil almost exhumes the ghost of Alvin Lee but with more restraint and with an emphasis on tone rather than speed.

And yet having absorbed all these influences and thrown everything into the mix, it's still Virgil's own signature tone that sings out loud and clear and VATA's inimitable bustling style, with Gabriel's effervescent cymbal splashes and Jack Timmis's rock solid bass lines that define their own sound.

There's a lovely balance to the album from the way it flows from the beginning to the end with the fluent bristling solos to the consistent unwavering sonic quality and the refreshing way in which the band sound like they've waited all their young lives for this moment.

'The Radium' is shot through with unbridled creativity, unfettered power and a locker full of riffs. And just when you think you've got the measure of ten tracks of jet powered rock, Virgil rips up the script on the closing 'Silver Giver' and leans into a cool, cool slow blues groove adding the perfect elements of touch, tone, feel before slowly building an explosive instrumental climax to the album His tone is awesome, his technique intuitive, and his use sustain breathtaking.

It's spine tingling stuff played with ability that so many strive for but so few achieve. If you only played the opening 'Working Man' and the closing instrumental 'Silver Giver' you'd have the perfect summation of what this band is all about. But that would be to miss so much good stuff.

In between times the band squeezes every imaginable dynamic from their material. Virgil blazes his way through riff driven rockaboogie on 'Refuse To Believe', drops in some metal riffs on 'Backstabber', works up a deep groove on '88' and delivers a killer chorus on 'Dancing With Life' before adding a touch of psychedelia on 'The Storm'. It all leads to the most wonderful finish to a great album as Virgil makes his guitar cry on the closing 'Silver Giver'.

People! It's rare to come across a record that can excite you like this. This is a band that is burning, nay exploding with energy, passion, and rocks as hard as a studio allows them to. Producer Steve Rispin is to be congratulated for capturing the band's essential spark and spontaneity as well as generating a top class sound quality that allows the excitement to transfer into the tracks.

In a world of so much hyped promise and so little true class, 'The Radium' delivers the most exciting and relevant rock/blues album since Joe Bonamassa announced his candidacy. Make no mistake Virgil & The Accelerators are a real band who can still get better on the back of their relentless work schedule. But 'The Radium' is a great start and sends out a message of the band's intent to rekindle the lost soul of rock/blues.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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