London based Mordecai are no strangers to stirring up the British rock scene with their rich and rousing sound, they have worked their charms on the other side of the Atlantic at times too, but fair to say they have outdone themselves with the thrilling Valour EP. Released a few weeks back, it is an anthemically dramatic and compelling collection of songs showing the diversity of the band’s songwriting and sound whilst forcibly pushing both on again from past triumphs. Quite simply it is one of the finest slabs of heavy rock/metal the band has unleashed to date and one of the essential explorations this year for all.
Though formed in 2006, Mordecai really began making a major impression from 2010 when the band’s line-up settled and solidified. They had already released a couple of EPs which were well-received by fans, but it was at this point that their Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge, and Black Label Society inspired sound found the spark to ignite itself and bigger attention. The band was soon exploding on stage at festivals such as Bloodstock, Bull Dog Bash, and Hammerfest over the subsequent twelve months or so and sharing stages with bands such as Black Light Burns, Bam Margera’s FFU, and Fightstar. 2012/13 saw Mordecai playing Download, one of the few unsigned bands to have ever been given two consecutive years, being invited to be part of Mark Tremonti’s (Creed, Alter Bridge, Tremonti Project), Fret12 Artist Development Program in the summer of 2012, and releasing debut album Undaunted the following year. The encounter lured keener and bolder attention from media and new floods of ears, something it is easy to assume that Valour will eclipse; to be honest it already is since it’s unveiling.
As soon as the opener to the John Mitchell (You Me At Six, Architects and Alter Bridge) recorded Valour erupts in ears, you can see why it has been kicking up dust. Fight Fire With Fire opens with a lusty roar from vocalist/guitarist Dan M Hicks and spicy licks of guitar across thick riffs. Rhythmically too, the track does not hold back, meaty beats from drummer Alex Gooders immediately landing with purpose and intensity as the bass of Mickey C grooves offloads predation and infectious bait. The contagion only increases as lead guitarist Andy Short spills hooks and grooves with craft and relish across the brawling rock ‘n’ roll being woven. Backed impressively by the band, the grisly and alluring tones of Hicks continue to hold ears whilst appetite and imagination is stolen by the sizzling tapestry of sonic enterprise and aggressive rebel rousing coursing through the exceptional start to the EP.
Latest single Just One Life, which also features John Mitchell, comes next and quickly the band reveals a mellower though no less potent side to their music and presence. There is a feel of bands like Seether and Shinedown to the song, spicy essences in a song which invites involvement rather than demands it like its predecessor. In its individual way, it also spreads a web of smart twists and catchy hooks throughout its melodic croon and though admittedly it does not emerge as one of our favourites on the EP it is fair to say it only leaves a smile of enjoyment before the metal fuelled All Wrong strides in and takes over with heavier rapacious attitude and armoury. A rolling rhythmic enticing lays down the first gripping coaxing before the song twists itself into a grouchy collusion of carnivorous riffs, toxic grooves, and another refreshing growl of vocal incitement, it all uniting in a thrilling tempest enticing body and soul to punch the air and snarl at the world.
Circles slips into another calmer landscape of invention and energy next, its initial tempting hinting at bands like Life of Agony before creating rhythm sculpted crescendos that blaze in ears with a sense of nineties band Skyscraper to them. Maybe taking a little longer to take a firm grip compared to those around it, the song emerges as another major highlight with a chorus impossible not to get involved with and a presence which lingers long past its departure.
Valour is brought to an explosive end by Rise where once more the band is casting lines of addictive grooves and deeply delving hooks, sonically and rhythmically, whilst building an incendiary wall of vocal and emotive intensity that just seduces with imagination and, again have to use the word, anthemic prowess. The song is a mighty end to a magnificent release, as suggested earlier easily the best thing Mordecai have created. It will be one the best things you are likely to hear in the muscular rock ‘n’ roll scene this year so go spoil yourselves.
Valour is out now.