Their debut was a web of flavoursome inspirations woven into a striking introduction, its successor a more honed proposition with a less expansive but more singular and enthralling character to its sound, and now with their third EP, UK rock band Dark Stares has explored another captivating evolution in their sonic adventure. Soul Contact is a fiery and sonically spicy encounter, a handful of tracks which intrigue with a psychedelic air and feisty tenacity. It is a release which pushes the St Albans quartet and their sound on again whilst confirming the band as one of the UK rock scene’s finest emergences in recent times.
Formed in 2011, Dark Stares have been no strangers to keen attention and support since the release of the Tell Your Friends EP the following year. Its success was swiftly backed by outstanding singles Bad Machine and Shinigami later in 2012 with the former subsequently finding itself personally selected by Dave Fanning and Bono for a U2-single publicity stunt. Influences from the likes of from Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Muse, Royal Blood, and Jack White openly flavoured their early sound and still spices its openly unique invention now, as shown by Soul Contact,. As second EP Octopon began to reveal this potent evolution through its unveiling in 2013, the foursome of lead guitarist Harry Collins, and the Howell brothers, Miles Kristian on vocals and guitar, bassist Brett Harland, and drummer Taylor, continued to lure national airplay and press coverage with the likes of Metal Hammer, Rocksound, Powerplay, and XFM whilst live sharing stages with bands such as Enter Shikari and The Darkness. It is easy to expect more of that eager attention to follow the release of their excitedly anticipated new release, and an even hungrier appetite for its impressive sound.
It is fair to say that Soul Contact does not dramatically leap at ears and thoughts at any time, but seduces with an unrelenting and tantalising temptation which ultimately is just as effective. There are times when it misses the spark needed to explode on the senses but with imagination and emotions of the listener thoroughly involved with that of the band’s and every encounter on the release, it is more a showing of the potential still left to be explored within Dark Stares than anything lacking. Opener Liquid Reign is the perfect example, a track which never erupts with a voracious impact but smoulders with warm melodic flames and bubbles with imaginative twists. Its initial touch is a distorted tease which leads to a slow but swinging stroll under a psyche kissed climate. The bass instantly conjures that gentle swagger, backed perfectly by crisp beats and shadowed yet inviting riffs. The effect wrapped vocals of Miles Kristian offer a mellow seduction of their own, his tones gliding over the magnetic and lively sonic enterprise of Collins. The song is as immersive as it is gently catchy, and a great start to the release.
The band’s new single Hypnotize comes next and swiftly has ears basking in a blues bred, scuzz lined temptation aligned to muscular rhythms. The most aggressive and intensive song on the release, it still merges a sultry and welcoming persuasion with a rugged and imposing rhythmic landscape. Virulently contagious and inescapably addictive, especially around its gorgeous croon of a chorus, the song also brings a rich familiarity to it. Over time it is realised as being just of the increasingly established Dark Stares sound, though with a healthy wash of QOTSA to it too. It is a great gateway into band and release, an obvious and gripping single matched by the following Ordinary Way. It too instantly hits like a previously encountered friend with another fuzzy beckoning at the start sparking recognition before a rumbling bassline and rolling beats sculpt an engrossing cage to enclose it all. It is a trap soon coloured in excellent vocal expression and texture within a sunrise of melodic wine and sonic drama. Cavernous and inescapably immersive but intimate and emotionally provocative at its heart, the song is a spellbinding embrace.
Animal floats in next on a sonic croon under a sweltering atmosphere, again easily luring in ears and imagination with bordering on exotic colours and invention. The track truly comes alive with its blues rock fire of scarring riffs and dynamic energy, an intermittent but hunger igniting expulsion across the song led to and tempered by a just as emotive melodic humidity. It is a slow burner compared to the previous pair of songs but slips firmly into thoughts and passions before the closing Cruise Control reinvents its finest Josh Homme and co inspirations for a melodic and harmonic roar coated in Muse like spatial hues and lined with compelling scuzz fired drama.
The track is an excellent end to another great and compelling offering from Dark Stares. It is not a massive leap forward from Octopon yet everything about it from songwriting and sound to imagination has been stretched with fresh creativity and passion. Dark Stares continue to impress and remind that the British rock scene has some strongly creative hands at its tiller.
The Soul Contract EP and new single Hypnotise are available from 6th April on EP and digitally through all digital platforms.
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