With Now What?!, Deep Purple doesn’t simply return, it sets out to remind you of everything that once made this band a contender for Led Zeppelin’s throne in the early 1970s as the biggest heavy-rocking band of them all.
Now What?!”, due April 30, 2013 via earMusic, finds Ian Gillan and Co. once again masterfully blending the metal, progressive rock and R&B influences that gave Deep Purple its unique persona — even as they stir in new flourishes to keep things fresh.
So, you have stalwarts Ian Paice and Roger Glover catching a murderous groove for “Weirdistan,” which features some of guitarist Steve Morse’s gnarliest outbursts — but also “Out of Hand,” with its math-rocky cadence. The opening track “A Simple Song” embodies all of that complexity, beginning with a twilit moment of reverie before Deep Purple quickly reengages with its own patented sense of shambolic thunder-grooving tumult — kicked off by a throwback organ gurgle courtesy of Don Airey that’s so tough it could have been a Jon Lord sample.
“Body Line” and “Apres Vous,” meanwhile, are delights straight out of the Machine Head Music era, while “Above and Beyond” edges into the netherworlds of Fireball-era prog. The spooky “Blood from a Stone” rises up like a billowing raincloud, even as “All the Time in the World” allows a still-resonant Gillan to settle into the lower, more emotional reaches of his vocal range.
Not all of it works. So complete is the band’s resurgence on Now What?!, in fact, that the advance track “Hell to Pay” — welcomed upon its release as a return to form — ends up sounding a bit by-the-numbers in this complex and yet utterly listenable new context. Meanwhile, “Uncommon Man,” the longest track here, is perhaps unsurprisingly a bit unfocused — and the horror-themed “Vincent Price” is more fun than it is substantial.
Still, those brief stumbles take nothing away from the triumphal return that is Now What?!, a third-act success that should reignite the passion of Deep Purple’s oldest fans — while, if there’s any justice, creating legions of new ones along the way.