In between festival stops at Ramblin’ Man Fair and Bloodstock, the genre-defying heavy blues rock of Lionize is burying itself deep inside the British psyche. HRH Mag caught the explosive quartet in action.

 

There simply aren’t enough gold lame suits in rock but Lionize frontman Nate Bergman is on a mission to change all that. Tossing aside his soundcheck civvies for a fabulously camp two-piece, his flamboyant outfit was the sole focus of attention…for at least a second. And then the music kicked in.

It’s admirable that Bergman takes such pride in his on-stage appearance but, in all honesty, the 34-year-old could have been naked and nobody would have noticed. Lionize are all about substance, not style. Creative depth, rather than a shallow obsession with how they look. The ethos of the band rather than the growth of the brand. In the circumstances, the gold lame suit is hilariously ironic.

Musically it’s difficult to imagine a more vibrant live force than Lionize right now. Bergman cited Rival Sons as one of his Ramblin’ Man highlights and it’s true that Jay Buchanan and co. share a similar approach to expansive songwriting and empowerment through thought-provoking lyrics. Nevertheless, Lionize are more politically charged, more socially in tune and more likely to connect with a younger and hungrier audience. There’s no doubt Rival Sons’ best work comes from the heart. By contrast, Lionize take inspiration from their Nuclear Soul.

The title of the band’s latest album, due next month, is open to interpretation. Bergman wouldn’t have it any other way. However, it’s difficult to look beyond the theory that it refers to an explosive outpouring of art, manifesting itself in some of the heaviest blues rock on the planet and driven by a necessary reliance on keys.

Lionize were – and still are – built around Chris Brooks’ Hammond. Where the majority of rock bands pay lip service to an instrument so frequently shunted to the back corner of a cluttered stage, Maryland’s finest celebrate its versatility and verve. It doesn’t simply replace a second guitar – it’s the lead guitar: the spark from which every Lionize anthem explodes into life and embarks upon a meandering journey fusing fantasy with reality and the future with the past.

Interestingly Fire In Athena, with it’s Lizzy-like riff, is a slow burner where the Hammond is concerned and yet its subtle influence is the making of what promises to be one of the surefire fan favourites from Nuclear Soul. Election Year, another new song and another immersive live experience, is more rock and soul than rock and roll but its ‘don’t trust the government’ refrain juxtaposes a serious message alongside an upbeat, almost optimistic melody.

Lionize might take their inspiration from bands as diverse as Procul Harum and Public Enemy but there’s no looking back where Bergman and co. are concerned. The 21st century prophets are the here and now of heavy rock.

It’s unlikely support band Dunes harbour such lofty ambitions but the North East trio, like Lionize, belong on bigger stages than this. Don’t be fooled by the QOTSA-styled outer layer: beneath the stoner surface lies a band built on some seriously heavy riffs and articulate rhythm that refuses to be limited by genre boundaries. Dunes’ set might have been brief but it included moments of genuine brilliance. HRH Doom vs Stoner anyone?