It has been four long years since the release of the attention gripping and highly enjoyable shock rock opera This Treason but at last Canadian gothic rockers New Jacobin Club return with its successor, the equally thrilling Soldiers of The Mark. A leaner and more creatively aggressive encounter which leans arguably more to the horror punk side of the band than the band’s previous releases, it still voraciously embraces the theatrical drama and gothic elegance which is the trademark of the band and what sets them apart from the crowd. Soldiers of The Mark is overall though rock ‘n’ roll at its best, the band employing a wide range of flavours and styles in the body and musical narrative of a concept album which is sure to leave fans and newcomers even hungrier for the band’s inventive contagion.
The brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Xerxes Praetorius Horde (aka The Horde), the Saskatoon band emerged in 1995 as a trio but had expanded in sound and size to a ten-legged tempest of unique incitement and expression by the time of their self-titled debut album in 2001. Fourth full-length, This Treason saw the band as a seven-piece unit pushing their sounds to new depths and heights whilst live, and often accompanied by the performance artists known as the Angry Teeth Freakshow, New Jacobin Club became renowned as not only one of Canada’s but metal’s most startling and exhilarating live acts. Across the years their reputation has continued to grow as the band shared stages with the likes of KMFDM, Voltaire, The Groovie Ghoulies, Nashville Pussy, and The Nekromantix amongst many. As mentioned it has been a fair gap between albums but Soldiers of The Mark shows the band has lost none of its potent visual and musical temptation but with a new line-up honed it into a more diverse and seductively predatory proposition.
Themed by the riveting premise that “a Turn-of-the-Century Gentleman’s Hellfire Club holds meetings and conducts depraved rituals to help bring about the end of the world as described in the Book of Revelations”, the album opens with The Mark. Instantly intrigue drapes over firm beats and a hazy glaze of guitar and keys which themselves hang over the imagination, coaxing thoughts to swiftly play with their tempting. It is a slow and strangely intimidating atmosphere initially but soon stirred up and twisted into a hungry charge of raw riffs and thumping rhythms led by the distinctive snarling vocal charm of The Horde. There is no escaping the tracks infectious primal bait or the emotive elegance of cello from The Luminous which strokes thoughts from within the striding persuasion of the song. Not for the last time on the album, a Misfits like breath flirts with ears but as a passing whisper immersed in the exotic imagination of the band, its hints pale against the bewitching theremin skills of Poison Candi and the dark emotive shadows cast by the cello. Driven by the stomping beats of drummer Rat King and further coloured by a punk tenacity bred by the guitar, the track is a compelling start to the album and immediate declaration that New Jacobin Club are back better than ever.
A classical stroke of guitar strings brings the following Parade of Innocents potently into ears and imagination, it’s slightly Latin hue evolving into a magnetic mesh of sinew sculpted beats and reflective melodies which are soon absorbed in the drama laid by the keys of Mistress Nagini and the throaty bass lures of The Ruin. It is an enthralling start which expands into a mix of Type O Negative and The Damned to give some idea of the delicious presence of the song. As with any NJC track though every moment is just an individual turn in its journey and narrative, a fresh twist coming here through the vocal temptation of Poison Candi which seizes the centre stage. Musically the song turns and swings with sonic ingenuity and invention from all sides yet that slimmer feel and texture to the song talked of earlier is evident showing that the band’s songwriting has again remarkably matured between releases.
Champagne Ivy brings fifties seeds to its gothic punk presence, its bass and cello croon casting shadows which are simultaneously lit by the swagger of the guitar and the band’s vocals. Again it is just one aspect as heavy metal riffing teases ears within a theremin swoon and darkly stringed seduction, producing a Volbeat meets Mötley Crüe incitement but different again. Its masterful enticement is soon left in the shade by Angel MMXIV and even more so A Grey Day to Die. The first of the pair is led vocally by Poison Candi and also parades heavy metal flames this time on a short but pungent gothic horror punk canvas. It is raw and unfussy, pure rock ‘n’ roll to greedily devour before the bigger meal of its successor. The second of the two roars and threatens in one breath and then unleashes some of the catchiest gothic pop enticing you could wish for. King Rat punishes the senses with his venomous swings whilst riffs growl with every note as the bass prowls the senses but it is only matched and enhanced by the virulent chorus and its anthemic contagion musically and vocally. Imagine Calabrese and March Violets in league with The Creepshow and you get an idea of the addictive majesty.
From one pinnacle to another as Into the Fire steps up next, a gentle provocative caress of chords and the melancholic beauty of the cello warming thoughts straight away. It is a transfixing entrance which only grows as romantic melodies and expressive shadows grip the song and ears. Like a bridge to This Treason, the song of all upon Soldiers of The Mark draws on the resourceful gothic rock invention of previous albums whilst exploring a fascinating rock pop and progressive ideation.
The fiery sonic mystery of Garthim makes for the next compelling endeavour. Bringing a texture rather than narrative, vocals talk from a distance, submerged in the gripping and haunting instrumentation which spills menace and apocalyptic beauty. It is a track for the imagination to run with for varied exploits, every swerve of its almost hostile causticity and its persistent melodic intrigue setting up the appetite for the outstanding romp of My Smile. Folkish in its infectious charm and rockabilly like in its tenacious enterprise, the track bounces around like an offspring of The Horrorpops but tempers its revelry with the mesmeric emotional drama of the strings and gothic keys alongside the sheer inescapable seduction of the theremin.
The album ends as strikingly as it starts with firstly the exceptional Seal of Metatron igniting the passions. With sonic washes lapping senses from time to time, the song is an aggressive yet controlled storm of heavy rock and gothic passion which takes every opportunity to wrong foot and surprise ears and thoughts with its innovative exploration. Its scintillating proposition is backed up by the irresistible rock ‘n’ pop of Return to Eden. With the cello melodically sighing around the pop vocal delivery of Poison Candi, the song instantly seduces before firing up feet and emotions with its unstoppable contagion. The track is gloriously mischievous in tone and vivacity, reminding easily of The Rezillos, yet has a psychobilly edge which only pushes its drama to richer success.
Soldiers of The Mark is New Jacobin Club at a whole new level. The band is still one of gothic rock’s finest protagonists but the band has now set down firm marks in rock ‘n’ roll a whole with rewarding recognition surely set to follow.
Soldiers of The Mark is available now digitally, on CD, and as on 12″ Vinyl with a hardcover companion book @ http://www.newjacobinclub.com/webstore
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