Album Review: Bush – The Kingdom

Bush The Kingdom album cover art

What a band doth a hiatus make.

Since returning from an eight year break in 2010, Bush has responded more like a younger act than a group nearing its 30 year anniversary. Like clockwork, Bush has released an album every three years beginning in 2011 equaling their four studio spurt from 1994 to 2001.

As such, Bush released their eighth studio (fourth in nine years) album The Kingdom today an ambitious 12 song 47 minute record that sees  founder and singer Gavin Rossdale at the helm, original drummer Robin Goodridge departing with Nik Hughes behind the kit, and Chris Traynor on lead guitar and Corey Britz on bass, both a part of Bush since the band resumed in 2010.

Bush has experienced ups and downs since forming in 1992, perhaps more than most bands, or at least have dealt with circumstances a bit out of the ordinary, some of it falling on Rossdale’s shoulders. Bush enjoyed immediate platinum success with their 1994 debut Sixteen Stone, an album the band draws heavily from for the live show and that still enjoys radio play today. But while fans flocked to the record store, music critics for whatever reason unfairly pounced on Bush for (insert reason here) though Rossdale dating Courtney Love after husband and Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain committed suicide certainly didn’t help. Regardless, I never understood the criticism. Bush music stands on its own and Rossdale carries a distinct sound thanks to his somewhat tempered but opaque vocals. No one else sounds like them, that’s for sure.

Rossdale made additional headlines after marrying Gwen Stefani of No Doubt in 2002 and created bigger headlines upon their pending divorce in 2015 which was finalized in 2016. Feel free to dive into that mess.

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All the while, Bush trudges on releasing an album in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic which prevents scheduling a tour for who knows how long.  “Bullet Holes” off the album was featured in the film John Wick: Chapter 3 and “Flowers on the Grave” was released in March both apt sneak previews of The Kingdom.

Bush The Kingdom Album Review

Rossdale doesn’t like the term “90s band” to describe Bush so if that annoyance drove him while writing the album consider The Kingdom an accomplishment. Bush delivers a well-crafted album in The Kingdom that holds sometimes piercing guitar solos, heavy rhythms throughout, driving melodies and absorbing choruses.

The Kingdom rises Bush to the level of a first-class metal band as they drop some of the hardest and heaviest riffs ever recorded by these post-grunge stalwarts that rocks the opening half before dialing back, ever so slightly, as the second half retains the strength of hard rock infused with softer pop melodies that help round out Bush’s best album since… (wait for it)

Sixteen Stone.

The Kingdom doesn’t mess around opening pretty raw for the first “official” single in “Flowers on the Grave” a classic Bush cut that falls in line with everything else they’ve done. Nice rock melody here that delivers. The heavy and hard title track follows handing out a metal tune with a throbbing rhythm from start to end.

Bush smartly included their feature film work in “Bullet Holes” on this album which continues the aggressive guitar-centric nature with some cool sometimes complex vocal work by Rossdale but the thumping Britz bass line marches this one home. A kind of ballad in “Ghosts in the Machine” tones back the heavy-handed guitar crunch, but not much. Tones of “Bullet Holes” ring out on the stubborn “Blood River” which needs a few spins before settling in to finish the first half of the album.

“Quicksand” gets the second half going with softer more melodic flavors that keep the head-banging chords but without gluing you to the wall.   Next, and hardly a knock-off from Barbra Streisand,  the stripped down approach really works for “Send in the Clowns” while carrying a biting guitar that takes on different phrasing as the song moves forward.

*Best Song Alert*

Whoa, “Undone” comes out of nowhere, keeps you waiting for the eventual musical dam burst but leaves you mostly dangling with bated breath.  Soft and sentimental, Bush shows heart and introspection on “Undone” a welcome break from the thorough hammering the rest of the album has delivered thus far. Really a great song, atypical for Bush and shows the depth of this “90’s band.”

“Our Time Will Come” rambles on a bit and ultimately gets lost coming after “Undone” but  actually has a solid guitar work and ends on a high note. “Crossroads” gets back on track and continues the guitar-centric trajectory, minus the heavy,  featuring a great rhythm and lead along with a catchy chorus.

Bush dives into pop metal for “Words Are Not Impediments” offering softer under tones at times then ripping a bit before scaling back to a relaxed melody as Rossdale retreats on the aggressive vocals only for the song to take a different direction and end hard. Finally,”Falling Away builds a good bookend to The Kingdom by retaining the heavy guitar like the rest of the album with a modern rock feel and mostly routine pop chorus.  The abrupt end pleasantly surprises but a cool take to the song’s theme.

Did Bush ever really go away? No doubt some out there wondered what happened to this band only to learn they indeed have been releasing albums and touring for the last 10 years. Now they have no excuse. The Kingdom brings Bush right back into the fold they left nearly 20 years ago.

Let’s hope they stick around for good this time.

Grade: A-

Bush The Kingdom Track List:

1. Flowers on a Grave
2. The Kingdom
3. Bullet Holes
4. Ghosts in the Machine
5. Blood River
6. Quicksand
7. Send in the Clowns
8. Undone
9. Our Time Will Come
10. Crossroads
11. Words Are Not Impediments
12. Falling Away