Fresh off celebrating their 40th anniversary, blues rock legends Whitesnake have returned with their latest studio album, Flesh & Blood, and it’s their first album of all-original material in eight years after 2011’s brilliant Forevermore.
David Coverdale has always surrounded himself with the cream of the crop of musical talent, and the band he’s assembled for the Snake’s new album is absolutely no exception. While I miss Doug Aldrich’s beefed-up guitar tone, replacement Joel Hoekstra (of Night Ranger and Trans-Siberian Orchestra fame) is a welcome and worthy addition into the Whitesnake fold. Reb Beach on guitar, Michael Devin on bass, Tommy Aldridge on drums as well as Coverdale himself all return on Flesh & Blood, with the addition of Michele Luppi on keyboards.
The 13 all-new, visceral tracks on offer here are all killer and no filler. They don’t reinvent the wheel here, but I didn’t expect them to either. Whitesnake has two forms: relentless hard rock and crooning, lighter-in-the-air power ballads and they deliver both in spades.
Roaring out of the starting gate is opener “Good To See You Again” as it highlights the powerhouse band firing on all cylinders with Coverdale’s howl sounding it’s best in recent years. ‘Good evening all you kings and queens, it’s good to see you again, ooh, my, my, you look so fly, you all look as guilty as sin.’ Destined to be a live favourite, with some incredible slide guitar from Reb Beach. A fantastic choice to start the album.
"The musicianship on display on Flesh & Blood is leaps and bounds above anything else I’ve heard this year..."
“Gonna Be Alright” turns the tempo down just a notch as Coverdale sings to reassure a woman that they can fix whatever problem they had by making love through the night. It’s okay, not a skippable track by any means, especially with its duel guitar histrionics from Hoekstra and Beach but it’s one of the lesser tracks on the record.
Thankfully, next up is lead single “Shut Up & Kiss Me” to bring the pace back up, and my god, this is one of the best songs of the band’s entire catalogue. Everything on this track delivers and more. I’ve had it on repeat since it’s initial release in February. “Shut Up & Kiss Me” rocks, and it rocks hard. Coverdale is on fiery form here as he delivers lines that’d be cringe-worthy in anybody else’s hands, ‘Lord have mercy, I’ve fallen in love with you, I can’t keep my hands to myself, Baby, I’m so screwed…,’ somehow, he pulls it off with his trademark grit. The band sound revitalised with a new passion and new energy here, and I’m very impressed.
“Hey You (You Make Me Rock)” is the best song that New Jersey-era Bon Jovi never wrote, with it’s mammoth guitar riffs and call / response chorus, seemingly custom built for stadiums. Once again, the twin guitars of Hoekstra and Beach shine through as they trade licks throughout. “Always & Forever” sounds like a lost demo from Slide It In, but that’s not a bad thing at all, as the track would fit on any 80’s Whitesnake album and not feel out of place. There’s also a slight Thin Lizzy vibe on display with the harmony guitars in the main melody.
“Trouble Is Your Middle Name” is yet another standout track. It’s blistering solos, rumbling bass and chugging riffs change constantly, keeping us on our toes. It’s hard to sit still when this song is on. Believe me, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. Play loud.
Title track “Flesh & Blood” may be one of the heaviest songs here. It’s a blues track at heart, amped up to 11 with themes of lust, vulnerability and devotion. The guitars sound huge here, but the real stars are the rhythm section of Tommy Aldridge and Michael Devin, keeping the song grounded as it thunders along. Over the course of their four-decade history, they have never been a band known for their subtlety; with song titles and lyrics drenched in double-entendres that frontman David Coverdale delivers with a knowing wink and a smile.
“Heart of Stone” is a solid track, if a little too long – clocking in at 6:42, but it’s repetitive and wears out it’s welcome 4 minutes in. Raging rocker “Get Up” is up next and may be one of the fastest songs Whitesnake have ever recorded, as it grabs the listener by the throat and doesn’t let go for its entirety.
“After All” is the one real surprise on the album. It’s almost entirely performed on an acoustic guitar and gives Coverdale room to breath, and the chance to show us just how good his voice still is, without being buried by the incredible noise of previous songs. This is one of the songs that Hoekstra wrote alongside Coverdale, it’s a treat and will no doubt be the acoustic song the band start playing live, probably just the two of them on stage.
The last track “Sands of Time” is a sprawling, heavy, melodic epic closer, with the entire band flexing their blues muscles. There’s a definite Led Zeppelin influence here, as Whitesnake create their own version of “Kashmir.” Coverdale stated in an interview recently that the song he wishes he’d written most is “Kashmir,” and “Sands of Time” feels like a response. It’s a brilliant way to end the album.
As I mentioned above, Coverdale and co don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with Flesh & Blood. They simply continue to do what they do best, and what they do best is loud, unapologetic hard rock music. Coverdale’s voice is in great form, a trend he can hopefully keep up for the upcoming world tour, and the rest of the band are incredible. The musicianship on display on Flesh & Blood is leaps and bounds above anything else I’ve heard this year. A couple of less-than-great-but-still-good tracks keep this from being the album it should’ve been, and the production is a little muddy (a step down from the crisp and clear Forevermore album), but overall, it’s a good enjoyable album, one for playing loud in the sunshine with a beer in hand.
"You got me rockin' you got me rollin'
All you girls and boys
You keep me rockin', rockin' and rollin'
So make some fuckin' noise..."
Fourty years into their existence, the ‘Snakes fangs have only grown sharper and are ready to inject fans with more of that rock n’ roll venom they crave. If you liked this record, check out what our very own Photographer Gary Miller captured at their latest show in New Jersey by clicking (Whitesnake Rocks New Jersey)
Flesh & Blood is out now on CD / Deluxe CD / Vinyl via Frontier Records, and is available to download on Apple Music and Spotify.
Don't miss Whitesnake on tour! The band play Download Festival on the 14th June 2019, on the same bill as Def Leppard and Slash! A day not to be missed! Check out all tour dates and ticket links HERE!