Certainly long awaited and definitely highly anticipated, the second album from British alternative/electro rockers Suzerain confirms the London quintet as one of the country’s brightest and most compelling propositions. Twelve tracks which are as eclectic as they are imaginative but firmly set in the distinct Suzerain sound, Identity is aural magnetism sure to eclipse the success, as it does the impressive qualities, of debut album Midnight In The Drawn City of 2011 and the A Mirror Now EP released a year later.
Recorded over the best parts of 2014 and 2015 producer Steve Lyon (Depeche Mode, The Cure, Siouxsie Sioux), Identity is a brooding bundle of songs built on social and emotive drama and wrapped in cinematic atmospherics and adventure. It is also the provider of some of the most virulently catchy encounters likely to be heard this year among other captivating proposals which simply devout the imagination for matching success.
Identity opens up with its title track, a brief and gentle yet dystopian hued instrumental which has thoughts provoked before ears and appetite become enthralled by the following Anytime. The fact the song carries, from its first evocative breath, a creative nature and drama very reminiscent of brilliant eighties band Comsat Angels does it no harm at all; rampant rhythms and the melancholic lure of vocalist Thomas Pether adding to the irresistible temptation on offer. With the bass of Mike Smith as dramatically vocal as the rolling beats of Ben Howe, the song grips attention, tempting and enslaving within its first minute of dramatically emotive seduction.
Dark Dark has the unenviable task of following the outstanding track, taking the challenge successfully in its creative hands as fizzing keys from Matt Constantine hug the distinct and expressive tones of Pether. Melodies proceed to blossom in the dark shadows lining the track, rhythms again a pungent scent in the heady and enjoyably imposing rock ‘n’ roll of the song. Increasingly more off-kilter, bordering on deranged with each passing minute as keys bring fresh discord, the band uncages already another major pinnacle in Identity, backing it up with equal invention through I Know You So Well. Swiftly shaped by the suggestive chords and melodies of guitarist Rich Summers as rhythmic drama again provides a riveting skeleton to the sonic theatre of Summers and Constantine, the song even with its unique character again reminds of the earlier mentioned Sheffield hailing post punk band, only beguiling with its sombre yet vibrant croon.
The brilliant Good Day steps up next; a track which lit up the band’s last EP and still dominates ears and lusty pleasure with its imaginative confrontation. Jabbing beats are a relentless lure, their attitude matched by the snarl of Pether’s vocals and the volatile simmer and melodic trespass of the keys. A cauldron of enterprise bubbling with volcanic energy, the song alone puts Suzerain at the top table of British rock bands, and as those before it do, is soon backed up by the likes of Frenzy and Edging Out. The first of the pair is a mellower caress on the ear but just as rich in emotive shadows and melodic drama while the second has an industrial air around its similar heart sharing lyrical and aural tenderness. Both songs but especially the latter, has a hint of Nine Inch Nails to their emotive atmospheres as the album shows further variety in its broadening adventure.
The excellent pop infected Always strolls in next, bubbling keys and firm beats skirting the warm tones of Pether as a contagious enterprise simmers and bursts within ears. As always, there is an underlying shadow to emotion and invention which adds darker colour to contrast the lighter shades revelling in the song’s bold catchiness and floating harmonies. There is no resisting its charm and tempting before it makes way for the gorgeous theatre of Palm Of Her Hand. Bass and drums are in full noir fuelled flow as vocals and keys almost punch their respective words and melodies into the imagination. Taking best track honours, it is anthemic alchemy with a hint of Muse to it, though it is hard to remember that band making as big an impact as this with any song in recent years.
The sombre slightly baroque balladry of 200 slows the energy of the album but not its raw lure, especially with the melancholic strains of Constantine’s cello sighing in ears as a stark landscape, emotionally and suggestively, is laid. From its low key but potent proposition, Black & White brews its own brooding landscape of voice, emotion, and aural endeavour next with rhythms again providing striking bait.
Closing with the arresting might of Hide Yourself, rhythms once more a magnetic seizing of ears and appetite matched in creative and persuasive kind by the sonic fascination cast by guitars and keys as Pether transfixes, Identity never misses a beat in thrilling and disarming the senses. Easily the Suzerain’s finest hour to date, the album is also one of the most impressive moments for UK rock ‘n’ roll this year so far with few encounters destined to rival it ahead we suspect.
Identity is out now via BrainZone/Republic of Music.
Pete Ringmaster 16/06/2016
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