2011 debut album Emergence was where UK progressive rock band The Sun Explodes first caught ears and attention, and not just lured their focus but had then gripped. It was a potential soaked and creatively masterful introduction with a few lesser issues which only added to the promise and anticipation of greater things to come. Its successor We Build Mountains two years later realised those hopes and expectations whilst setting down new adventures to greedily devour. The exceptional release one of the most exciting offerings of that year, so much so that you had to wonder if this was to be as good as it gets for the band and whether what came next could live up to such heights. Well, The Calm, The Storm certainly rivals its predecessor, eclipses it at times, whilst suggesting there is still more striking exploits to come from the band.
Carlisle based The Sun Explodes has explored a ‘mellower’ landscape with The Calm, The Storm, further blossoming the melodically colourful side of their sound. This also applies to the vocals though that is not to say that the bulging rhythms and aggressive almost predatory creative drama fuelling previous releases are not as pungent as ever, just that the focus is centred on another side of their invention. Technically and texturally, the release is as dynamic and unpredictable as ever, their fascinating and relentlessly busy sound and enterprise again best and only fully explored over numerous listens.
It all starts with The Calm, and a gentle melodic caress of guitar. The reflective shimmer of their coaxing is quickly reinforced by the similarly relaxed tones of vocalist Dave Maclachlan, ears and thoughts immersed in an evocative lure and atmosphere. This continues to seduce, drawing the imagination deeper into its embrace before erupting into a more intensive wind of rhythmic predation and harmonic elegance. There is a new raw edge to the track, a rugged tempestuous air taking over though the poetic melodic craft of earlier continues to entwine and incite from within. It is a transfixing start to the EP which leads straight into the just as powerful and dramatic majesty of The Unnatural. The second song instantly reveals a more virulent contagion and energy to its body, riffs and hooks from the guitars of Alex Adamson and Alex Harris immediately enticing and thrilling ears. A slip into calmer, magnetic waters comes with the entrance of Maclachlan’s voice and song narrative, though the bass of Mike Walker and the punchy beats of drummer Jamie Harris line and skirt it all with darker shadows, a kind of menace which become more pronounced as the song flows into heavier, ravenous scenery. It is a continually changing passage of course, peace and volatile energies switching and aligning across the enthralling encounter as the guitars, also with continual unpredictability, prowl and ignite the air.
As openly as the band’s songwriting and sound has evolved and become even more involved, so the individual skills and maturity of each band member seems to have grown too. The second track is a web of striking exploits in all areas and straight away emulated in The Grand Design. It also opens up its incitement with a swagger and dynamic energy before settling into a more evenly offered temptation, though it is fair to say that within seconds the track reveals a fierce tapestry of flavours and endeavour which is as jazzy as it is predatory and as melodically enthralling as it is rhythmically intimidating. Like on hot coals, rhythms are a boisterous and agitated shuffle across the song whilst harmonies bring a warm seducing caress, whilst between them guitars and keys cast a vivid and tenacious sonic picture narrated by the excellent tones of Maclachlan. To be honest it is hard to portray everything going on within songs, the fullness of the dynamics and torrent of styles and enterprise lighting ears, so be prepared to hear and discover much more when listening to the release yourselves.
I Walk Alone takes the listener on a less agitated flight initially but creative turbulence is lying in wait and soon sparking appetite and greater enjoyment as the song twists and turns through its own individual maelstrom, though it is more a kaleidoscope of imagination and inventive resourcefulness then anything chaotic. This and the closing Storm Of Light are arguably the least capricious tracks on the release, but each is still a varying tapestry of mercurial enterprise. The final song is a captivating union of piano and vocals, a duet of beauty matched by the soaring harmonies around them. There is grace and emotional energy to the proposition which only strengthens as the track subsequently expels a blaze of guitar boiled intensity and intensive rhythms.
A stirring end to another masterful creative emprise from The Sun Explodes, we can only repeat the last words in our review of previous album We Build Mountains two years ago. The Sun Explodes stand as one of the most important bands in UK rock, just that after The Calm, The Storm they are even more essential for all progressive rock fans to investigate.
The Calm, The Storm EP is available from May 18th @ http://thesunexplodes.bandcamp.com/
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