Well I have listened to this album every day for the last 10 or so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining and it hasn’t been a chore in the slightest. It’s just that a work of this breadth and depth is not going to reveal itself to you on a cursory listen and it will require time to unveil its mysteries. That is on two levels too, firstly the music itself and then the inner narrative. I have to admit that I haven’t got that far on the latter but was probably never meant to as the album strikes as incredibly personal. No doubt it deals with themes such as jealousy, sex and rain which Metal Archives helpfully lists and as did last album London. At least with a title like that you had some sort of clues. However Frightened strikes as much about inner turmoil and emotions and the general difficulty of life’s very existence as much as anything else. Anyone who wanders through a day to day state of turmoil will no doubt identify with that. Still, what is a song like Rabbits Curse (for instance) all about? Does it follow on from one of the band saying no to a Romany character trying to sell lucky heather and being bedevilled by them after saying no. I don’t agree with going and asking a band questions in order to review their material and you should make your own mind up and interpret as you will, right or wrong but I have to admit this posits so many queries.
As for the music itself, well don’t go into this expecting a \metal/ horns up sort of listening experience full of David Gray blasting for Satan. It’s not like that at all. The roots from previous albums are there but they have moved, you will read no review in right mind making comparisons to a band like Akercocke here, this is all very unique and comes from a place where guitarist Sam Loynes has stated that they have made the sort of music they wanted to listen to themselves and knowing what varied tastes the quartet have it is very much a gathering of ideas from many disparate elements.
Enigmas are there from the start with a track titled ‘Unknown’ it’s moody and melodic. The vocals are as varied as the music itself and Peter Benjamin goes through everything from clean harmonics to low possessed growls and suicidal angst ridden screeches. The music does not want to be categorised but it is certainly progressive in however you define the word. As the album develops the overriding sense is that it is also fairly mellow but also rather like traipsing through sodden streets (yes the rain does hang over it all again) has an air of futility and despair about it. Sombre piano and avant-garde crooned parts hang over the aforementioned rabbit song and it is far from fluffy as rhythms go skew-whiff and the gloomy timbre of brass hangs over the background like a cloud. ‘Evaporated’ takes on post punk flavours and very much has the spectre of Bauhaus hanging over it due to the jagged riffs some of the more processed vocals are reminiscent of Mark E Smith too and it is very Fall like in the way it makes little discernable sense unless you probably grew up with ears fixed to John Peel on Radio 1.
‘IWSYA’ gives something away as the heartfelt plaintive harmony of I Will See You Again is sung but musically after sounding like it could have been a recent Anathema number symphonic aspects bring gorgeous melodicism along with harrowing screams that would scare a DSBM band half to death. Dead Feelings ramps things up with juddering riffs and some classic Gray trademark drum rolls but then the keyboards mournful tone that takes me back to Killing Joke’s misunderstood ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’ album adds doses of atmosphere. There’s a bit of Katatonia about ‘Manipulator’ but having said that it’s probably the most upbeat track on the album with a hard hitting jaunty chorus and bounce to it. After the first few plays it was definitely the song I found myself singing along to. I’m determined not to quite go track by track here but it is difficult due to the differing personalities of the songs. They range drastically in length too with ‘Fascinator’ for instance being a short simple acoustic piece with poetic clean vocals tugging at the heartstrings. By comparison ‘Home Movies’ a title that kind of gives me the fear and all sorts of unsavoury thoughts is one of the longest. Dan Abela’s thick meandering bass work really comes to the fore here and some of the mood on it and indeed other parts of the album strike as being slightly reminiscent of Ulver’s last great album Perdition City. By the time we get to last track ‘Footsteps’ I’m even tempted to cite the Cure vocally and not sure quite what musically but it all hangs together with a wealth of ideas and gels perfectly. I can’t wait to get a finished copy of the album and see if that helps make any more sense of it all and of course see them play the album launch show at the Black Heart (unfortunately not till the 7th July). As for giving this a mark it’s nearly impossible to do so but for the sake of keeping up appearances ….
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)