1968 - Fortuna Havana
A band with the balls of a rhinoceros
Words: Andrew Field
Last year legendary New York rock band Warrior Soul played at Chester’s Live Rooms. Legend has it 1968 axeman Sam Orr, off his head after an afternoon of liquid refreshment, swaggered past security with a look of “I’m with the band” and sauntered into the backstage area dressing room uninvited, finding Warrior Soul frontman Kory Clarke with his pants down. Whilst the road manager shouted at him with increasing gusto to get out, Sam chatted to a rabbit-in-the-headlights Clarke like it was the most normal thing in the world. I share this story only to show you that the man has the balls of a rhinoceros, and his band have created an EP that exudes the same belligerence and confidence in its grooves.
Formed four years ago by Orr and frontman Jimi Coppack 1968 have slowly, incrementally and purposefully turned up the heat with a self-titled EP in 2015 and increasingly volatile shows across the country. Fortuna Havana encompasses four live favourites recorded with the rhythm section of Tom’s Richards (bass) and Drury (drums), clearing the decks before they start work on 1968’s first full-length platter.
If you’re thinking “stop gap”, then don’t. If ever there was a statement of intent, this EP is it. Fortuna Havana is, quite frankly, an absolute monster. The sheer level of goosebump-inducing power displayed over this quartet of stunningly crafted tracks is startling. Opener Vorpal literally bounds out of the speakers, featuring an infectious 6/4-time chorus that gives you no other option than to bang your head until it falls off. War Dogs is built around a Robin Trower-esque snaking riff which is pounded into submission by Drury’s half-time drumming over which Coppack wails like the bastard offspring of Chris Cornell and Paul Rodgers.
The big daddy though is Duchess. It contains the best riff Tony Iommi never wrote in the verse before going all Deftones and A Perfect Circle in the chorus, carried on Richards’ wonderful walking bass, before closing with a coda of such magnitude it had me running to a thesaurus to seek out new superlatives. The title track brings the EP to a close with a sublime and eloquent guitar solo that only Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios could have captured so perfectly.
Tom Drury has left the fold now, but these songs will no doubt continue to fester and grow under the tutelage of new skin-basher Dan Amati. In the meantime the original quartet should rest assured that, 49 years after the annus mirabilis to which they owe their name, 1968 have provided us with 2017’s first essential purchase.