Those who know anything about vintage rock already know Carmine Appice, the drummer whose work with Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck and scores of other legendary players has changed the way many beat-makers go about their business in the last half-century. In the leadoff single from his recently rereleased LP Guitar Zeus, “Nobody Knew” (featuring Queen’s Brian May on guitar), Appice blasts his way through another fierce rock power ballad made for the distortion connoisseur in all of us, and though it’s not the most futuristic song you’re going to hear in 2019, it may well be one of the most reliably rhythmic in its specified genre.
There’s simply no other way to put it – Appice straight up puts on a clinic with the drums here, but he doesn’t let his showmanship take over the narrative of the track at all. Brian May fills in all of the edges with guitar grooving of the sweetest variety, and I really like that he decided to go with an understated style of attack on this occasion. Carmine Appice is definitely the star of this show, which says quite a lot when you consider how big a set of heavyweights he’s working with in “Nobody Knew” (including bass player Tony Franklin and T.S.O. singer Kelly Keeling).
I would have preferred just a little more volume on the bassline, particularly in the middle of the song, than it was afforded in this mix, but I suppose that I can understand why they decided to go with something different here. If you’re going to make a track as drum-powered as this one undeniably is, a bloated bass part is the last thing that you would want coming between the artists and the audience. It’s pretty old school and a little anti-climactic in the chorus, but somewhat necessary to achieve the sound Appice and company were going for in this instance.
If you’re a hardcore rocker, you’ve got to love the way that the guitar and the drums were mixed in “Nobody Knew.” The two elements are evenly dispatched at us, much like firebombs in a well-orchestrated war assault, and they essentially bond the other components in the song together just enough for us to keep focused on the churning hurricane they make when firing on all cylinders. You can’t accuse anyone of not pulling their own weight here, but to be fair, this is to be rather expected when these musicians enter any studio around the globe.
In an age where many bands and solo acts are going in the opposite direction, Carmine Appice and his well-selected cast of superstars are embracing a sonic brutality influenced by power trios and perfectionist rock stalwarts of yesteryear alike, and producing results that work for the genre’s aficionados exceptionally well. It won’t win every critic over, but for my money, “Nobody Knew” is just the kind of black and white rock song that was missing from 2019, and it’s finally arriving at the right moment – as is its parent album, the aptly-titled Guitar Zeus. Designed for both the serious listener and the casual fan, this is a great track and video to check out right now.