Age Of Distraction - A Game Of Whispers

Age Of Distraction – A Game Of Whispers

A Game Of Whispers, the thrilling debut album from Age of Distraction, explores the way poor communication can create toxic relationships in which our view of reality becomes increasingly distorted. The musical style is an arresting blend of hard rock, emotional crossover prog and melodic metal, and every track is bursting with energy and emotion. The production is crystal clear and all the performers are right at the top of their game. In a year of outstanding new releases this is definitely one to watch out for.

It all began in 2023 when guitarist John Cook (ex-This Winter Machine) composed an instrumental track that cried out for vocals – and who better to supply them than the versatile Charlie Bramald (Ghost of the Machine, Shadows on Mercury and more)? The quality of Charlie’s contribution inspired John to send the track to bassist Mark Gatland (Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, IT) who enthusiastically jumped on board. When John gave the song to Dom Bennison (also from This Winter Machine) for mixing and production at his studio, Dom offered to provide the live drums that now make up the beating heart of the album, and Age of Distraction was born.

The album opens enigmatically with The Uninvited. This two-minute mini-epic builds organically from a single motif and showcases the pianistic and arranging skills of guest star Ruby Jones from The Exotic Ices Project. Crackling interference and fragile piano tones, poignant with nostalgia, are overlaid with a mysterious voiceover announcing Mission has been compromised. Like a flashback to happier times, pianistic fireworks, sweeping strings and crashing percussion reprise the theme in full cinematic mode until the solo piano returns, bleak with loss, the plaintive melody gradually degrading into a burst of static.

Break My Bones plunges headlong into the album’s main theme of communication breakdown, depicting powerfully how relationships can turn sour when both parties feel betrayed but cannot accept their own guilt. The opening instantly demands your attention. Sharp, percussive stabs of sound like gunshots are countered by a tidal wave of synths supported by supercharged drums and bass. Charlie expertly varies the colour of his vocals to convey emotions ranging from aggression to shame and hurt, while those mighty synths drive the momentum relentlessly forwards. In the chorus this emotional maelstrom is reinforced by the uneven 7/4 metre and unexpected twists in the melody and harmonies which push the sense of key to breaking point. Finally the tension erupts into a blistering guitar solo from John that closes the track in a blaze of fury, leaving our senses reeling.

Compromised is launched by a barrage of sound from Dom’s remorselessly pounding drums underpinned by Mark’s nimble bass, joined by restlessly clanging synths and dominated by angular, obsessive guitar riffs with a strong metal tinge. Charlie’s delivery is impassioned and tense, employing the full range of his vocal register to drive home his anguish and frustration, and every band member is firing on all cylinders to present a chilling picture of a relationship degenerating into open warfare.

After the passionate onslaught of the last song, the darkly atmospheric Protect Me offers an opportunity for reflection. Uneasily swirling electronica, ambiguous tonality, introspective vocals and distorted, echoing guitars give this track something of a post rock feel. In the closing moments a luminous guitar solo sails above an unexpectedly serene and uplifting chord sequence, breaking the gloom to shed a welcome ray of light and hope.

The Plea is a haunting instrumental that ruminates anxiously over the questions raised by the previous tracks. A plaintive guitar hovers wistfully above desolately pulsing synths and hollow drums, soaring ever higher in its search for hope without ever achieving a full resolution.

In the broodingly atmospheric Take Me Down we are treated to a change of timbre as the microphone passes to the smooth and stylish tones of Philip Stuckey (Stuckfish), and Ruby Jones resumes her seat at the piano. Phillip’s expressive vocals paint a convincing picture of a man drowning helplessly in the fatal addiction of a poisonous relationship. Uneven and obsessive rhythms in the instrumentals create a sense of restless menace, while Ruby’s piano adds a seductive sparkle and emotional intensity which builds throughout this darkly disturbing love song.

The most overtly metal track on the album, A Game of Whispers uses violent images drawn from the field of battle to describe how words can become distorted or misconstrued. An opening salvo from snares is answered by vicious riffs on distorted guitars. Charlie’s voice, augmented in the chorus by echoing harmony vocals, gradually builds in emotional power and dramatic impact. The violence climaxes in the grindingly dissonant instrumental section, overlaid by the heavily distorted snarl of Breakdown in communication. Deceit becomes an addiction. This track is one of the standouts on the album, combining moments of genuine heaviness with memorable ear worm melodies.

The instrumental Point Of No Return brings no respite. Relentless, spiralling guitar riffs jangle our nerves, while Mark’s thundering bass and Dom’s mighty drums propel us inexorably forwards on a white-knuckle ride that is both terrifying and immensely enjoyable.

The more relaxed tempo and restrained, reflective nature of Oceans makes it the perfect foil to the preceding pair of tracks. Electronically distorted guitars give way to delicately expressive acoustic tones. This song is especially well suited to Charlie’s voice; his delivery is gentle and sustained but imbued with a heartbreaking sense of anguish and longing, accentuated by Dom’s emotive, almost cinematic arrangement. The stunning cover art by Andjela Vucic perfectly captures the atmosphere of this track.

Like the opening track, The Left Unsaid is an instrumental that employs the device of heavily distorted spoken vocals. These are presented at an almost subliminal level, rising from an ominous background of hypnotically looping guitar patterns, ambient sound and electronic blips. The effect is sinister and haunting, like the thoughts we banish to our subconscious, but which emerge unbidden to become the stuff of nightmares.

Sneak Attack is aptly named. Once more the lyrics are bursting with venom and violent imagery which the music conveys with remorseless savagery. After a deceptively quiet opening the attack is launched with a thunderous barrage from drums and bass, and jagged, dissonant guitar stabs. Seething keyboards maintain a sense of urgency and the vocals feel harsh, bitter and disjointed. The rhythmic tension continues to build through each chorus, with multi-layered harmony vocals further intensifying the emotional impact. Just when the pressure seems unendurable, John lets rip into a searingly ferocious and brilliantly executed guitar solo. After a supercharged final chorus, the instrumentals have the last word – and they are taking no prisoners.

Like The Uninvited, My Peace is based on a single motif – this time a reprise of the luminous guitar melody and chord progression from the end of ‘Protect Me’. The theme is introduced tentatively by a flute, rising above warm clouds of multi-layered symphonic synths, and finally transforms into a heartfelt solo violin that soars heavenward like a skylark, gradually fading from view. It is a magical ending that reminds us never to give up hoping and striving for peace and reconciliation.

A Game Of Whispers is an exciting and highly enjoyable release and its plea for honesty and trust in relationships is timely, significant and passionately delivered. There is a carefully crafted dynamic to the album, with the sequence of tracks creating a thrilling sense of ebb and flow which sweeps the listener along while affording moments of reflection. Age Of Distraction are a busy bunch of musicians with fingers in a variety of musical pies, but they clearly relish working together and have evolved their own distinctive voice on this album, bringing cohesion and integrity to the overall sound. Congratulations to the band on this highly impressive debut – I hope it will achieve the success it deserves.

01. The Uninvited (2:45)
02. Break My Bones (5:54)
03. Compromised (5:01)
04. Protect Me (4:48)
05. The Plea (2:49)
06. Take Me Down (4:24)
07. A Game of Whispers (5:56)
08. The Point of No Return (4:28)
09. Oceans (4:49)
10. The Left Unsaid (2:02)
11. Sneak Attack (7:38)
12. My Peace (2:45)

Total Time – 53:19

John Cook – Guitars, Additional Keyboards
Charlie Bramald – Lead & Backing Vocals
Mark Gatland – Bass, Additional Keyboards
Dom Benison – Drums, Keyboards, Additional Guitars
~ With:
Philip Stuckey – Lead Vocals (6)
Ruby Jones – Piano, Keyboards (1 & 6)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 31st May 2024

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