Can you squeeze even a cigarette paper between the definitions of Black Country Communion and some of the 70's hard rock behemoths? Probably not. But are their followers bothered? Very unlikely, it's what the fans pay the price of admission for and the group deliver by the lorry load.
This, the Anglo-American outfit's third album, comes at a time of high tension as Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa have taken their differences public via Twitter - the current chosen forum to lock horns on. As this could spell the end of the group it does throw a rather different spin on the album.
In the main BCC haven't strayed too far from their very successful template: the opaque sheets of hard rock are still underpinned by the unwavering rhythm section with Hughes's voice soaring above. However, it was Hughes who was largely responsible for the writing here, stating, 'I wanted more acoustic moments' and 'more drama'. Based on previous efforts, some will wonder if that is possible, but Afterglow does dabble with different textures which ramp up the overall impact.
Monumental opener, 'Big Train', sees Jason Bonham and Joe Bonamassa locked in a tight roll of staccato drums and guitar, paving the way for one of rock's most celebrated voices, Glenn Hughes. Sitting somewhere between Bon Scott's swagger and Robert Plant's ability to wail, Hughes isn't known as 'The Voice' for nothing.
Kevin Shirley, the so-called 'fifth member', and a man who only has to walk near a studio to create a hit, has opted for a huge cinemascope sound. Big, in other words. Joe Bonanmassa, the sometimes mild mannered bluesman, goes for the jugular with monster riffing, which on 'Confessor' can range from AC/DC style crunch giving way to a Rush style chorus; add in a Derek Sherinian keyboard break and you have a bonafide classic.
With the new approach showing, the title track heads towards a multi part epic with a Zep-ish feel and 'The Circle' is a rewarding muscular ballad. For an actual acoustic moment the guys attach an inventive coda to 'The Giver'.
So, maybe not a departure, that was never on the cards, but there's enough here for Afterglow to make a different statement without any dip in quality or attitude. Lets hope they survive a little longer.