Pretty much enamoured with the Johnny Wore Black sound and creative adventure since its first couple of singles way back in 2012, the past two to three years have been seemingly rather quiet for the band. It has as ever been a busy time for the project’s creator and vocalist/writer Jay Coen though, the man throwing his stuntman body and audacity around in a number of features you may have heard of which include Game Of Thrones, Ready Player One, Spectre, Hitman’s Bodyguard, Rogue One, Spiderman-Far From Home and more. Now the band has returned with new album Ultra Violent Light, a simply compelling release which shows that Coen has also been rather busy these past months growing, honing, and exploring his project’s already established musical prowess.
Released in two parts over the course of 2014, Johnny Wore Black’s debut album, Walking Underwater, deservedly drew acclaim and a major flood of fans the way of the band. It was a tapestry of melody wired metal and rapacious rock as contagious as it was imaginative and emotively provocative. Ultra Violent Light is more of the same yet a whole new realm of craft and invention across every aspect making its predecessor so captivating.
Coen’s continuing link up with Megadeth bassist David Ellefson is as alive and potent as it has ever been within Ultra Violent Light too, for which he has also enlisted the creative courage of Earthtone 9 members in drummer Simon Hutchby and guitarist Gez Walton, the latter also producing the album alongside David Bottrill (Tool, Stone Sour, Dream Theater), to realise his new collection of songs. Additional enterprise from keyboardist Cameron Daniel William Hill, cellist Kate Shortt, vocalist Adam Sedgewick, and bassist/vocalist George Donahue only adds to the bold and imaginative canvas of the release.
Ultra Violent Light opens up with latest single Gun True Love and instantly had attention wrapped up as Coen’s vocals come entangled in the evocative wires cast by the guitar. It is a coaxing which respectfully nags but with an intimation of darkness which expands as the track erupts with muscular dexterity. The tone of Ellefson’s bassline is growling manna to these ears but just as magnetic is the web of melodic enticement and vocal harmonics which tempts from within the more volatile climate of sound and emotion.
Straight away there is a richer depth and feel to songwriting and music in comparison to previous releases, a realisation compounded by next up One Sexy Scar. Carrying drama from its very first note, the song breaks from its slightly tempestuous entrance into a composed stroll with warm keys and melodic caresses. Even so there is a perpetual lining of volatility which simmers and boils up as the mercurial character and air of the track persistently enthrals before the following Plastic Ocean creates its own tantalising yet stormy captivation of sound and character. It is a moment of seduction as threatening and imposing as it is flirtatious, in so many ways a predator and relentlessly alluring.
Honey Club is similar in nature with the big swings of Hutchby an instinctive incitement even when adding restraint to their trespass and the wiry intimation of Walton’s guitar as provocative as the grizzled voice of Ellefson’s bass. Another track bewitchingly capricious, Coen’s ever individual tones croon and richly lures the listener into the heart of the song, a contender for best track with its unapologetically resourceful touch and darkly brooding imagination.
Through the likes of the arguably less bold but just as infectious and dark RIP Mr Man and Boy Soldier with its melancholic grace, emotive intimacy, and turbulence corrupted tranquillity, band continues to expand the emotion fuelled storytelling and creative emprise of the release. It is an adventure which reveals more by the listen, the deeper into its heart you venture the more it expresses its richness and agility as proven yet again by the similarly composed Southern Storm, a song with a seemingly intensely personal heart amidst a military rhythmic bearing. It has echoes of Big Country to its inventive scenery and an Americana/folk whisper to its breeze in a proposition becoming more powerful and compelling with each listen.
Broken uncages an anthemic tempest of metal infested rock ‘n’ roll next, the track an robustly eventful and muscular affair with a virulent catchiness and evocative twists of thoughtful calm to its armoury while the album’s following title track borders on the carnivorous with its rhythmic spine and senses prowling riffs, but a predatory stalking aligned to vocal and melodic charisma lined with emotional angst.
The album closes with Ultimate Fighter which deceptively opens with Coen’s magnetic tones alongside Hutchby’s spirited beats under a sonic sigh aligned to a shadow courting grumble of bass. It subsequently ignites in a chained tempest with beats exploring even greater tenacity as guitars flame and vocals roar. It never explodes into the beast expected but becomes a just as dynamic and imposing anthem with invention in its enterprise and zeal in its release of that adventure.
It is truly an outstanding finale to a release which thrilled from the off but really came to life and magnificence by the subsequent ventures into its imaginative lair, becoming a seriously must explore encounter along the way.
Ultra Violent Light is out now via EMP Label Group across most stores.
Pete RingMaster 31/08/2018
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