When UK rockers Broken Links first grabbed our attention and eager praise with their debut album, Disasters: Ways To Leave A Scene back in 2012, it was with an encounter which was “melancholic and reflective, warm and oozing positivity”. It was giant of a debut we expected to ignite the band’s ascent into the richest attention. Arguably they are still waiting for that outcome but we cannot help thinking the moment is nigh with new full-length Conflict::States. In contrast to that first release, the new album is a voracious grievance and attack on the world. It wears its anger on its sleeve and breathes discontent from ire heavy lungs and similarly declares the Eastleigh outfit one irresistibly striking proposition.
The trio of Mark Lawrence (Vocals/Guitars), Lewis Betteridge (Bass), and Phil Boulter (Drums) drew on the inspirations of bands such as Manic Street Preachers, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, The Chemical Brothers and Massive Attack for their electro/alternative rock bred sound. That first album showed it rich in flavours and fair to say their sound has hungrily evolved from its impressive statement, growing over the years to now forge the band’s finest moment yet with third full-length Conflict::States.
The release is a dark and imposingly haunting affair, that thick discontent lining every hue and texture within but equally its songs cast melodies soaked in seduction and electronic atmospheres which equally disturb and bewitch. From the first expressive throes of opener The Day Called X, the album consumed ears and imagination, the track rhythmically jabbing away as it looms into view with the portentous threat of riffs and the predacious stroll of the bass at its heart. That initial moment sums up the presence of Conflict::States; its compelling union of threat and seduction, aggression and contagiousness instantly apparent.
Through vocal prowess and sonic nagging the song swiftly gripped, its infection inescapable and devoured with increasing lust. It is an outstanding start to the album, its darkness and catchiness addictive and an imposing spark to the imagination as too soon became the similarly nurtured but individual aspects of the following Replicas. It too comes in from the distance with an easily engaging personality amidst challenging character. There is dystopian air to the song which adds greater chill to its breath and adventure across a fertile landscape of enterprise that never lets predictability surface, that too another great aspect to the release as a whole.
Pioneers canters in with infectious endeavour, Lawrence’s vocals again as magnetic as the electronic and sonic sounds he courts. The track becomes as gnarly and invasive as it is elegant and radiant, Broken Links skilfully uniting dark and light, calm and heavy with rousing craft. Metal rock and electro pop feed its cauldron of sound and emotion before the gorgeous Antibiolotics simply seduced the senses. Even so it kept them on edge throughout its glamorous corruption too, its fascination a fusion of beauty and trespass.
The diversity at the heart of the album continues through the industrial metal hued Cold War and the glacial drama of Eras; both tracks as much enthralment as invasion while Monolith is intrigue and suggestion brewed to epic heights within its primarily instrumental but fully sided drama. The new power in the band’s sound is no more compelling and imposing than within the track and proves gripping across the whole of Conflict::States.
The opening electronic harassment of Fatalism is enough to ensure slavery, the subsequent snarl of the bass and crystal lures of guitar as well as ever potent vocals only escalating the pleasure before Zealots with its carnivorous rock ‘n’ roll and the atmospheric consumption of Year XI chained every aspect of temptation with their individual imaginations. The latter is a ravenous beauty of a ballad which left us as exhausted as we were elated, proving a rapture of sound to fear and fall for.
The album concludes with Disconnect, a song highlighting all the individual and united skills and invention of the band from songwriting to sound. With one breath it tempts with almost pop like elegance and the next becomes a clamorous almost concussive consumption and only tightened its grip with every shift.
From start to finish Conflict::States outshines anything from the band before, and that includes some truly striking moments, but even more so it creates a tempest of pleasure which leaves so many encounters this year so far at the starting post. Surely this is the time of Broken Links.
Conflict::States is released April 30th.
Pete RingMaster 27/04/2021
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