It’s over two years since Godsticks’ last album, the classy and visceral Faced With Rage, and four since they resolutely punched the button marked ‘HEAVY’ with Emergence, so I’ve been looking forward to hearing where they head with this one.
For this fifth album, they continue on their chosen path with the emphasis largely on the heavy end of the progressive spectrum clear for all to see, but there is also the intricacy and depth we have come to expect over the years as the band have evolved through a number of formations into an excellent unit which now appears to be stable and fully bedded in with plenty of live work. All the previous influences are brought to bear on Inescapable in a confident and forward-looking sound.
With a thread of djent angularity running through it, opener Denigrate immediately hits you between the eyes with angsty guitars and pounding rhythms. The accompanying video sees the band showered with flour and cake mix, while the storyline suggests that all might not be well in the world of Bake Off as the brooding nature of the song emerges, Darran Charles’ voice is more than up to its task, and with backing support from TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins, it’s a real statement of intent.
There’s a refreshing crispness to the sound, Dan Nelson’s bass delivering a lovely tone – check out the intro to Resist – and it’s soon obvious that keyboards have worked their way back into the sound, but in a subtly supportive role that expands the music whilst embellishing where required, and there’s a distinct change of tone with Victim, the lightness of touch in the floating vocal and easy melody hiding the punchy rhythm section of Nelson and drummer Tom Price, the twin guitars of Charles and Gavin Bushell padding around and ready to strike, which they do in the chorus, before a dextrously flowing solo.
There’s an airiness to this release that allows space within the arrangements for the songs can breathe. The edginess returns for Relief, a deft injection of industrial momentum supporting the melody as the refinements in the band’s sound become apparent. Charles’ vocals successfully convey the emotion throughout Inescapable, built around a very personal theme, his struggle with self-worth, the mental torture of performance balanced against the love of music and the need to play it: “I used to be very much a perfectionist in my early years, and whilst some people may wear that as a badge of honour, I eventually viewed it as huge heavy weight dragging down. It was a long time before I arrived at the realisation that perfection was impossible to achieve.” This pain shines through beautifully on Surrender, with one of the most emotional deliveries Darran has yet achieved.
A sinister side emerges in Numb, leading into the 9-minute centrepiece of the album, Change. Fiddly and intricate but still managing to pull off the emotion and angst, there’s a sweeping majesty that elevates the bleakness of the message and a genuinely exciting mid-section of buzzing guitars that resolves into an epic chorus and solo. As a counterpoint, the following Breathe is quieter and more introverted with some lovely piano, Darran harmonising with himself as if wrangling with his inner voices. It’s a great – and ironically confident – track. The buzzing wasp-fest that is Time seems to resolve much of the doubt – “Only the Gods can hold me down!” – before the deft closer Resist sends us home happy
Godsticks have successfully developed a modern sound that sets them apart, and they have the skills to pull off the technical demands with apparent ease. It’s safe to say that Darran and the guys should have no fears of worthiness here.
The band play a series of dates in early April, in Cardiff, London, Edinburgh and Manchester, and I urge you to see them if you can.
01. Denigrate (3:53)
02. Victim (6:14)
03. Relief (5:40)
04. Surrender (4:44)
05. Numb (5:08)
06. Change (9:31)
07. Breathe (5:17)
08. Time (5:48)
09. Resist (4:36)
Total Time – 51:51
Darran Charles – Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards
Dan Nelson – Bass
Gavin Bushell – Guitars
Tom Price – Drums
Daniel Tompkins – Backing Vocals (on Denigrate)
Record Label: Kscope
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 7th February 2020