SHOT DOWN TWICE – Shot Down Twice EP

On this follow up to their 2020 EP ‘Got Up Once’, Canadian rockers Shot Down Twice absolutely exude confidence. With a punchier production and a couple of songs that are unafraid to be a little more complex than anything the band have recorded before, ‘Shot Down Twice’ is the kind of release that deserves to take these musicians to the next level.

When released as a video single a fair way ahead of this EP, ‘Talk To Me’ showed, with almost immediate effect, how the band are masters of a massive, yet melodic riff. The passing of time has not diminished the arrangement’s all round punch, or the song’s gift for delivering a great hook. The track’s heavier parts have various things in common with the trashy rock of Thundermother and Salvation Jayne, but as the quieter verse demonstrates, these guys have a sound all of their own. The way the verse contrasts the chorus and bridge sections is impressive, since the clean toned guitar work introduces a slightly jazzy tone, but more importantly, it’s the way it acts as the perfect bed for a clean melodic cry which lends the number so much more of an accessible feel. The fact that the band chose it to set the mood for this EP and yet it isn’t actually the best thing on it should tell you something about the strength of this release.

‘By Design’ crashes in with a massive guitar riff that calls back to that brief moment in the early 90s when big haired melodic rock bands like Warrant and Skid Row really toughened up. That influence comes through more in its swagger than direct tone, and as things progress, Shot Down Twice begin to sound more like Halestorm with a sharper edge. A few jarring, chopping moments within the riff lend an extra edge and with the louder elements interspersed with a more melodic, almost blues rock flourish, it’s another number that takes in a broad array of moods in a relatively short space of time. Both Jeff Wilson and ex-Profaner guitarist Pat Rogers are superb throughout, and a forthright drum part courtesy of “Rusty” really helps to give the track a genuine punch. Every one of the musical elements is great – hard edged, yet melodic, and always played with a pin-sharp accuracy, but the real star is vocalist Carmen North who attacks every syllable with a full scale cry that’s every bit an equal to Lzzy Hale and much larger than anything Taylor Momsen has set down. Her voice is amazing, and the classic, crunchy heart of the riffs allow her to reach inside for a bigger performance than before. The lyrical content appears to have a religious overtone, but when the overall mood is as gutsy as this, that becomes much easier to overlook, and at the point where you think Shot Down Twice have given their all and are ready to bow out, a fantastic lead guitar break rises up. Coming in late at the track’s end, it helps to give this number an extra final kick, and in it’s own deftly played but very retro way, it’s guaranteed to be an instant hit with those who love classic rock and metal. There’s so much packed into these five minutes that suggest it’ll be the EP’s highlight, but the remainder of the material brings its own strengths, especially if you’ve taken a liking to Carmen’s huge voice at this early stage.

Changing the mood, ‘Long Haul Blues’ opens with some pure blues and the slide guitar driven back porch stomp calls back to the genre’s forefathers. As expected, though, after several bars of tradition, the hard rock chops arrive and show how well Shot Down Twice can match Black Stone Cherry’s harder edged moments, riff for riff. By the time the weighty groove hits a chorus – via a brilliant mix of almost grungy chords interspersed with some taut lead – Carmen reaches full pelt, and in terms of power her voice is almost up there with the young Ann Wilson (circa ’79) and Chess Smith at every turn. Despite a sterling effort, it’s the guitar work that leaves an indelible impression here, with Jeff and Pat taking it in turns to drop some amazing leads throughout. Although this track never actually tries in any way to be different or take the style into new places, it’s perfect execution makes for some great heavy blues rock, whilst ‘Undermine/Overthrow’ opts for speed, grit and a feeling of sheer ballsiness. By taking rock and metal into a punky direction, some listeners might be reminded of The Almighty circa ‘Crank’, others might experience occasional Skid Row flashbacks (there’s a genuine relentlessness here that isn’t a million miles away from numbers like ‘Riot Act’), but either way, there’s much to love about this force of nature with the twin guitars chugging apace and Carmen clearly loving the opportunity to cut loose before the number winds down via a more rhythmic groove overlaid with heavy toms. It might not be ground breaking, but it sounds great when played back at high volume…and, sometimes, that’s what really counts.

‘Goddess of The Sun’ introduces a far more soulful mood with a stripped down arrangement that allows multi-tracked harmonies to soar, before venturing into an almost funky, choppy groove that fuses rock and pop in a very natural way. Even when showcasing deeper elements within her range, Carmen remains one of the band’s strongest assets, and although there’s nothing here musically that connects with any of the previous tracks, lyrics regarding family, unity and strength, again, appear to hint at a faith element, although never in a way that’d be off-putting to the religion averse. This is another near perfect marriage of vocals, riffs and thoughtful lyric, and its more 90s oriented vibes will certainly appeal to many listeners. Rounding out an already superb release, ‘At A Loss’ allows Jeff to throw out a few dirty, bluesy leads in tribute to some 80s heroes, before the whole band embarks upon a jagged melodic metal workout that’s shamelessly old fashioned. More than anything else in the SDT canon, this has a distinctly Euro flavour – you can almost hear the leather trousers creaking – and yet, for all of its older heart, it retains an energy and spirit that has a lot in common with the rest of the EP. Hearing Carmen run through a full vocal range from huge rock wail to an occasional angry roar is listening reward enough, but the real highlight comes from Jeff and Pat locking into a twin lead solo that could’ve been pulled straight from an old Helloween or Edguy LP. The fact that Shot Down Twice can present this alongside something like ‘Long Haul Blues’ without it sounding completely out of place (or worse, plain silly) is testament enough to a very talented group of musicians bristling with self-confidence.

This second release really builds upon the Shot Down Twice sound in terms of both variety and quality. Its six numbers boast a tougher production than the debut, the arrangements show off a broad array of talents, and it’s quickly clear that – like the UK’s own Salvation Jayne – these guys really understand the value in not being stuck in a musical rut. The moods are varied, but perhaps, more importantly, the way the material updates a classic rock sound for something a little more contemporary (at the time of recording) gives everything an edge that so many other rock bands lack. If you consider yourself a fan of smart, melodic metal and crunchy hard rock in the vein of Halestorm and Flyleaf (among others), this is a release you need to check out as soon as possible.

January 2022