Some bands release their debut or sophomore album and immediately vault from being an opening act to a headliner. But for most it's a long hard slog. Albums sell enough to warrant another but nothing really changes. No breakthrough.
That description fits The Answer, who formed in '00 when guitarist Paul Mahon, the son of a musician, started working with former classmate, bassist Mickey Waters.
The trio recruited drummer James Heatley but had to wait until he completed his degree in Psychology.
Cormac Neeson was a Blues singer in New York when he got a letter from Mahon suggesting he return and join the band - which he obviously did.
Like countless groups, The Answer rifled through numerous names before finding the answer. "We need a name," Neeson told his bandmates. "What's the answer?" And there it was, more to less staring them in the face. "It's a name to build yourself up to," added Neeson.
Though the band started recording in '02 their debut album, "Rise," didn't arrive until '06.
It sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. Classic Rock magazine called "Rise" the Album Of The Year and Kerrang magazine chimed in naming The Answer the "Best British Newcomer" (even though the group was from Northern Ireland).
"Never Too Late," the group's second single, landed on the Guitar Hero World Tour video game while another track, "Into the Gutter," was on the soundtrack for the "Pure" video game.
Due to complaints about download only singles, "Rise" was physically re-issued in '07. Tracks not included in the original iteration, found a home. There was also a cover of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" that was originally recorded for a free Kerrang! magazine CD.
Coincidentally, The Answer opened for Aerosmith at Hyde Park (London). Signed by the indie label The End for U.S. distribution, The Answer delivered the EP "Never Too Late" (they sure got a lot of mileage out of that song). The set included "Hell Or Highwater" which also appeared on the full-length '09 release "Everyday Demons."
The Answer supported Whitesnake on their U.K. tour and the Rolling Stones' European trek. Thanks to a U.S. distribution deal, the '08 "Never Too Late" EP, and the track "Highwater Or Hell," The Answer landed on slot on the American and European legs of AC/DC's Black Ice World Tour.
While "Rise" and "Everyday Demons" did the best in Japan, "Revival" ('11) and "New Horizon" ('13) found moderate chart success in the U.K.
"Raise A Little Hell," The Answer's fifth studio effort, rolled out in '15.
The answer The Answer should have sought was how to break out of the opening act ghetto.
But before they could solve that one, The Answer faced serious issues. First, the Raise A Little Hell tour left them in financial chaos. While that was fairly typical for bands in their strata, a more emotionally draining crisis developed when Neeson's son was born three months premature with multiple health issues.
Amid these difficulties, The Answer recorded and released "Solas." The '16 album was produced by Andy Bradfield and Avril Macintosh, who had previously worked with the group on "Rise."
2009 Everyday Demons
2013 New Horizon
2015 Raise A Little Hell
Roll through the verse on a riff and a prayer. Drive the chorus with power chords and let the singer bring it home. Repeat. Insert a guitar solo and repeat chorus. That's the Classic Rock template - in use for decades. Often considered, with some justification, to be tired and worn out, the template, in the hands of a true practitioner, like The Answer, can be brought back in all its glory.
Though it's natural to focus on Neeson's throaty vocals or Mahon's forceful yet textured guitar work, nothing moves without a spot-on rhythm section (that would be Waters and Heatley).
While it is easy to identify The Answer's influences, the group's direction owes a lot to a more contemporary source. "The Darkness opened people's eyes really, to (Classic) Rock music," said Neeson in an interview. "They made the guitar solo cool and Rock music trendy by appearing on Top of the Pops." A telling difference is The Darkness has a Glam tongue-in-cheek attitude while The Answer takes itself a little more seriously.