Album of the Week 08-2015: Thunder – Wonder Days

Shortly after the release of Thunder’s second farewell record ‘Bang’, yours truly interviewed drummer Gary ‘Harry’ James for the now defunct Fury! webzine. At the time, James assured me that this time, their split would be definitive. Fast forward to 2015, when I’m holding ‘Wonder Days’ in my hands. I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the band’s earlier reformation after only two years and the fact that they’ve been playing live for a while, but I was. Even more surprising is that guitarist Luke Morley has written the most inspired set of songs since ‘Behind Closed Doors’, possibly even since their classic debut ‘Backstreet Symphony’.

Don’t expect some artistic detour; on ‘Wonder Days’, Thunder is still the Bluesy, yet intensely melodic Hard Rock unit you’ll expect them to be. All the elements that Thunder fans have come to love are firmly in place. Danny Bowes’ voice hasn’t lost even the slightest bit of his power and range, the riffs courtesy of Morley and Ben Matthews still give the music a slight Pop Metal edge, the vocal harmonies are spot on, but the slickness of many Hard Rock bands with similar memorability is nowhere to be found in favor of strong songwriting and a healthy dose of variation.

Nothing that surprising so far, but the consistency of their style, combined with the exceptional quality of the songs and the unbelievably spirited performances of everyone involved are a cause for goosebumps and – simultaneously – delight that the Brits are back. After the somewhat underwhelming ‘Bang’, I had assumed that the fire had burnt out, but it only took the powerful, Stonesy Bluesrock groove of ‘The Thing I Want’ to draw a wide smile on my face and realize that this is what Rock music is about. Before release, the huge Zeppelin-esque riff, catchy chorus and uncharacteristically busy middle section of the opening title track already confirmed my faith in the album.

Lyrically, nostalgia seems to be a leitmotif on the album. The title track – if not the title itself! – and the nicely rocking ‘When The Music Played’ recall the days when the band members were younger and do that with a distinct flair. Don’t be mislead though; the album doesn’t just have nostalgic value. The strong compositions and performances make the album. Even when the band branches out a little, like on the surprisingly folky ‘The Rain’, the borderline Heavy Metal of ‘The Prophet’ and the swampy Blues shuffle of ‘Serpentine’, they sound every bit as convincing as when they are in more familiar territory, let’s say the awesome ‘Black Water’.

In the end, the only thing we can say after hearing ‘Wonder Days’ is “welcome back Thunder!”. The record is amazing, easily top 3 work for the British quintet. All of the band’s melodic Hard Rock and Bluesrock glory has been restored to an extent that I – as a fan – wouldn’t even have dared to dream it would. Needless to say, fans of the genre simply can’t go wrong here. For me personally, the record consolidates my endless respect for Luke Morley as a songwriter and Thunder as a band. A masterpiece. No, I’m not exaggerating.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Thing I Need’, ‘When The Music Played’, ‘Serpentine’

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