New Model Army has never been slow in impressing and stirring up thoughts and passions since forming back in 1980 with their uncompromising and inventive sound, lyrical confrontation, and inspiring stage presence but it is fair to say that the Bradford band hit a new pinnacle with last year’s Between Dog and Wolf album. It showed as if fans needed reminding, that the band has become more impressive and essential with age, the rigorously acclaimed release being rewarded with being the UK band’s fastest selling offering and charting top 30 in UK and Germany. Now the band unleash the similarly outstanding and eventful 2 CD encounter Between Wine and Blood. Made up of six brand new songs on one disc and eleven live cuts of tracks from the previous album on a second, it is an invigorating continuation of the riveting creative plateau set out upon Between Dog and Wolf.
Following the potent release of the last album, NMA set out on the Between Dog and Wolf Tour to equal praise and success. Part two of the tour was scheduled for the spring of 2014 but due to drummer Michael Dean being diagnosed with blood clots in his leg and advised not to play shows, the tour was postponed until this autumn. The break enabled the band to hit the studio and to record 6 brand new songs for the mini studio album accompanying the live CD. The songs are bred from and continue the weighty impressive presence of Between Dog and Wolf, pushing and exploring further its creatively imposing and thrilling emprise. The tracks make for a compelling and enthralling companion to the live portion of the release. Recorded from the first part of the aforementioned tour at venues in London, Nottingham, Cambridge, Cologne, and Amsterdam, the CD sublimely reinforces and the power and impressive stature of the last full-length and the band live, easily capturing the raw and emotive energy which marks their songs and stage presence. Combined the two sides of the proposition makes for one of this year’s most enjoyable and striking incitements from a band as mentioned earlier just get better and better.
The new tracks start off with According To You and needs little time to consume ears in a slow yet heavy and throaty embrace of bass and guitar. It swiftly slips into a pungent stroll of predacious riffs and sonic enticement from the guitars of Justin Sullivan and Marshall Gill, whilst vocally Sullivan imposes himself with the distinctively confrontational yet expressive calm which has always marked his delivery. The grouchy tone of Ceri Monger’s bass brings another breath of drama to the prowl of the track whilst its flowing chorus is unafraid to dabble in rock pop without defusing the intensity and weight of the impressive opener. It is a stirring encounter, but emerging in hindsight as just the tasty appetiser for greater things to come starting straight away with Angry Planet.
The second track has barely time to coax the imagination before raw riffs incite a rampant stroll of anthemic beats from Dean, which in turn are caressed by a gentle but vocal melody and the ever riveting lure of the bass. Exploratory electronic breezes from Dean White enhance the dramatic evocation cast by the song for a stunning challenge where lyrics and vocals work on thoughts as magnetically as rhythms enslave limbs and the inventive sonic weave steals the imagination. Sure to be a crowd favourite ahead, the song builds and boils into a climactic finale driven by the discontent and unrest theming its narrative, ultimately cementing itself as a show and album stopper.
Guessing is equally anthemic in its individual stomp, beats and riffs an irresistible incitement over which melodies and sonic designs twist with flirtatious hues as vocals and the increasingly impressive bass endeavour of Monger, nestle perfectly between the song’s antagonistic rhythmic drive and seducing creative enticement. Another to chalk up as a classic NMA proposition, the song is rivalled by the bewitching Happy To Be Here. An emotive folk embrace wraps ears as a sultry melodic temptation and ambience provides a mesmeric colour to the vocal draw of Sullivan and a courting acoustic beauty. An energetic bounce to the track just as rapidly emerges but is never allowed fully off its leash, the band instead simply breeding it into an infectious swing driving the provocative and intimate adventure.
The new material is completed by firstly the stunning Devil’s Bargain, again a tribal seeded bait opening up the track as keys build a haunting yet engaging atmosphere. It is an instant trap in which feet are unable to stay motionless as the body subsequently succumbs to the baiting. Thoughts and emotions are not far behind in their submission either, keys and vocals leading the resourceful and radiant temptation. As all the songs, there is a potent unpredictability and intrigue to every twist and shift of ideation in the track but skilfully explored with seamless ingenuity and passion. The closing Sunrise, the band’s new single, is a punk folk treat if it can be tagged as anything, which simply oozes irresistible melodies and spellbinding harmonies across a sinew sculpted spine. To be honest it is not the standout song on the release but still an easy choice to lead people into the album.
The live side of Between Wine and Blood just as tightly and swiftly grips passions and appetite, from the fist pumping thrills of the opening Stormclouds through to the closing contagion of Horsemen, band and CD steal total interest in ears and attention. The opening track sets the tone, pulling the listener into the middle of the tempestuous glory of song and occasion, skin almost tingling as ears are immersed in the passion and energy of the night it was recorded.
With every track a roar of intensity and passion delivered with the craft and snarl which has always been NMA, there is no point in the album where you wish to be anywhere else but certainly tracks like March In September with its fiery provocation, the impossibly addictive and brilliant Did You Make It Safe?, and especially the voraciously transfixing I Need More Time take the biggest plaudits. They are rivalled by the excitingly hostile shuffle of Between Dog and Wolf, a classic track and imperious live version in anyone’s book. As said though every song is a transport right into the heat of their recording and the evidence that there cannot be many finer bands live than New Model Army right now.
Mixed by Joe Barresi (QOTSA, Soundgarden, Tool and Hole), Between Wine and Blood is a must for fans and all with a yearning for impassioned and powerfully inventive rock ‘n’ roll, whether from the studio or stage. NMA also have a voice which never shirks taking on the world’s injustices and social wrongs and that as shown by this outstanding release, is just as masterfully engrossing.
Between Wine and Blood is available now on the band’s own Attack Attack label in various packages @ http://shop.newmodelarmy.org/ and https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/between-wine-and-blood/id907118636
Check out New Model Army’s current tour dates and more @ http://newmodelarmy.org/
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