How long ago is it that Drive Like Maria featured on this blog? It is my impression that it was in the early summer/late spring of 2012. I had just discovered the band's debut album from 2009, 'Elmwood'. Coincidentally the second album, 'Drive Like Maria', was released weeks after that post. Then, silence. Until Preserver was released. Only then I found out that it was preceded by another EP earlier this spring. So let's review them both, starting with the latest release Preserver.
'Saints' takes me back decades. To the only song I knew at the time of Free, 'Alright Now', but more accurately to the albums of that band that I started collecting around 2000. Drive Like Maria touches upon that beautiful blend of blues rock in an extremely successful way. 'Saints' is an extremely strong opener of this EP and earcandy to the max The song is forceful, direct and has a strong melody as well. The best of all worlds for those about to rock.
Drive Like Maria is no one trick pony. The more relaxed 'Sinners', the driven 'Deep Blue' and the more laid back 'I Wonder If It Goes' make the listener expect something different and pining for that which Drive Like Maria is best in: rocking out. That makes Preserver a well-balanced EP. Opening with the stark riffs of 'Saints' the mood is taken down in the second song, 'Sinners'. It shows that this band can play an open song, with a lot of inner tension in it in a great way as well. The two guitars mixed left and right, opens the mix for the bass, drums and voice as well as all the very interesting little extras: piano, organ, acoustic and lead guitar. "If there is no God above and we are totally alone", Bjorn, I can make do with these 5 minutes 15 seconds, thank you.
'Deep Blue' rocks out again. Queens of the Stone Age without neurotics. Just a little more directness makes a lot of difference in my opinion. Drive Like Maria has found the way in to finding the little elements that make a song more than just nice. Listen closely and you'll find them.
Preserver ends with 'I Wonder If It Goes' where it holds back again. It's version of a ballad. Not my favourite of the EP though.
In 2016 Drive Like Maria is a trio: Bjorn Awouters,
Nitzan Hoffmann and
Bram van den Berg. On record there is a lot that can not be reproduced by a trio on stage. I have no doubt that energy and volume will compensate there. The trio produced another EP that passed me by this spring.
Creator starts so soft, almost as an overture. In a sense the first part of the song is just that. After a very short silence the band is let out of its cage and riffs and pounds away. The lead guitar in 'Nighthawks' comes straight out of the late 60s rockbands. The arrangement allows everything from classic hardrock riffs, to subtle hints at eastern music and Stones guitar chords. The sound makes it very 10s, the music goes back a few decades.
Bjorn Awouters' voice reminds me of Paul Rodgers in some of the songs. He is able to use his voice in a few ways I notice, which gives the sound of Drive Like Maria a wider perspective and variety. Just like the band is able to do with the structure and mood of its songs. The harmonies of Nitzan Hoffmann provide a soft touch that lights up songs from the inside, even or better especially when they are darker in mood. Try 'Sonny' to find out how that works.
Creator ends with the fast driven 'Tiny Terror'. Again a song with a touch of 60s within it, in a way that was inconceivable at the time. This way of playing was over 30 years in the making. A kind of hybrid between 60s rock, a dash of psychedelia and 00s alternative rock. A very successful rock hybrid of a song.
Whatever the plans of Drive Like Maria are, they are touring the country at the moment of writing, another EP?, a compilation album of these EPs?, I don't know. The two EPs are a musical and artistic success. Heap number three on me, please!
You can listen to 'Deep Blue' here: