With their third album Emergence, Cardiff based band Godsticks slightly shifted sound. Where the first album Spiral Vendetta (2010, see review) was melodic and progressive, their second album The Envisage Conundrum (2013) already showed the path to more heavy music was taken. The new release sees a more grungy hard rock style with metal influences. What binds the albums together is the typical, distinguished style of band leader Darran Charles' vocals, this main songwriter also provides guitars and keyboards to the band's sound. Other members are drummer Steve Roberts and bass player Dan Nelson. Among the guest musicians I would like to mention The Pineapple Thief's Bruce Soord, who adds background vocals on two compositions and who also remixed two songs for the free digital version that comes with the pre-order of Emergence.
On Emergence Darran's vocal style takes you to the heydays of grunge, when super vocalist Layne Stayley still lived and toured the world with Alice In Chains and to Scott Weiland in his Stone Temple Pilots days. A nice haunting vocal style that marks the album. I have to mention this vocal style is elemental for Godstick's music and you do have to like this approach to enjoy the fullness of the album. Opener Below The Belt perfectly combines these vocals with a more than outstanding rhythm section; the adventurous drums and bass provide a solid backbone for strong powerful guitar riffs and the aforementioned vocals. Personally I would have liked a more prominent bass sound in the mix, but that is nit-picking, I guess. Also the following song Ruin sees the strong drum sound again, backing up the fine guitar and bass combination and typical voice. Besides the strong riffs on most of the compositions, Godsticks really grooves; listen to Much Sinister and the groove will take you to higher spheres. Also check out the subtitle keyboards that are placed underneath and the fine Steve Vai reminding solo part. During some of the songs the metal takes over, like the furious Exit Stage Right (nice album title, but no Rush reference here), Hopeless Situation and One Percent, the result is a style that reminds of a heavy version of King's X. When the band takes a step back and adds strings and acoustic guitars, we find ourselves listening to a sentimental ballad style song, strong and a nice relaxed spot in the album. The album's title track Emergence certainly is one of the highlights for me, here Alice in Chains style vocals go hand in hand with a guitar style that combines the riffs of Buckethead with melody and technics of Dream Theater's John Petrucci. The short instrumental Leave Or Be Left is nice, but does not really add anything more than being the intro for the albums big finale Lack Of Scrutiny; dramatic and filled with outstanding guitar work and intriguing vocals.
I had to listen to Emergence several times before the album and its combination of progressive metal and grungy vocals dug in. In the end the album turned out to be a very interesting one with very talented musicians who keep each other balanced all the way. Just one remark, regarding the songs on the album; it is not obligated to have one ballad and one instrumental composition on an album. That was an eighties thing I think. Nevertheless, Emergence is a great album that will be enjoyed by a lot of people.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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