Trespass - Footprints in the Rock - (8.5/10)
Published on January 13, 2018
Great news for NWOBHM enthusiasts
Once upon a time, Trespass were one of the strongest contenders in then-flourishing NWOBHM, with a handful of successful singles, high-profile compilation appearances and record labels regularly beating a path to the band’s door. They could (and arguably should) have made it into premier league status, but that wasn’t to be the case, and history awarded them with only a humble entry on the “cult band status” file for the time being.
Fortunately, old stalwart Mark Sutcliffe (G/V) never totally lost the will to continue, and general interest was more than enough to persuade him to get his beloved venture off the ground once more. Now helped by Joe Fawcett (G), Jason Roberts (D) and Danny Biggin (B), he gave himself the task to write and record an album to fulfill some of the bright promises left behind.
Though it’s not exactly the comeback album of Trespass (there’s also a 2015’s self-titled CD), “Footprints in the Rock” is their first recording to feature only brand-new material in roughly 25 years, so it’s surely a landmark in the group’s career. And when you consider that 1991’s “Head” was a radical departure from the band’s trademark sound, and also that all other full-length releases were compilations, it’s not at all unreasonable to argue that this 2018 release is something of a spiritual debut for the lads, nearly 40 years into their career. And a pretty nice one, if you ask me.
Don’t go for this one expecting any sort of major reinvention: it’s way more of a accomplished case of soul-searching, a band that managed to recapture the spirit of the early 1980’s heavy music without sounding too self-referential or contrived. The album kicks off with a foolproof 4/4 drum pattern before “Momentum” launches with heavy-rocking riffing, nice vocal lines and a straight-to-the-point approach that really captures the listener’s attention almost immediately. I had a hard time trying to figure out just how they allowed such a thin and nondescript sound on the guitar solo though – perhaps a mistake on the mixing board or something? Fortunately, all other guitar appearances have a much lively sound, so it’s pretty easy to quickly forget this initial bad impression.
Things never get too fast around here, as Trespass were always more inclined to beefy, solid riffing rather than indulging on breakneck speed. Which is not to say there’s not a few moments of faster-flowing energy, you know, as in the excellent “Mighty Love” (strong Thin Lizzy influences here) and “Prometheus” (truly nice instrumental section, and the main riff also deserves a mention). The guitar work is never overdone by the way, but never runs out of nice touches either, as tunes like “Beowulf and Grendel” (mostly very chuggy, but with careful, melodic embellishments in places) and the mellow intro to the otherwise groovy and pounding “The Green Men” are more than adequate to justify. Bass and drums offer the necessary backbone for the guitars to shine, and Mark Sutcliffe’s voice works perfectly well into the band’s scheme of things: a bit too raspy in places, mostly unpolished for sure, but with a no nonsense attitude that is totally attuned to Trespass’ penchant to keep things rough-and-ready most of the time.
My personal favorites, apart from the aforementioned “Mighty Love”, would be “Dragons in the Mist”, full of interesting dynamics and a more complex, yet very catchy chorus; the beautiful epic ballad “Little Star”; and most of all the impressive title track, perhaps one of the finest tunes Trespass ever wrote, and I mean it. But it’s a very solid album with hardly any filler in sight, which is to say something when you consider that they’re dealing with elements that were exhaustively used by many other bands, countless times before.
It’s easy to slip into self-parody when innovation is not your main goal, but Mark Sutcliffe and his cohorts surely did the trick and kept things sharp and entertaining throughout this album. Trespass’ definitive resurgence doesn’t achieve quite the same level of excellence than, say, Satan or Hell, but “Footprints in the Rock” is still great news for all those who save a fond place for NWOBHM in their metal hearts. If you fit the description, just stop reading and go get it straight away.