26 November 2013

Midlake - Antiphon

How would you cope in a band with the loss of your lead songwriter and vocalist?  Not many bands have attempted to do that, certainly not many have succeeded either if the truth be told; but it is something that faced Midlake in November 2012 when principal leader Tim Smith left the band.  Spurred on by their previously leader demands that he would let them have only some of the material they had all worked on (which turned out to be roughly about 25% of their work), the band decided to abandon what had been worked on before I started afresh.  Recorded in six months, the band has managed to produce ten tracks for the general masses to indulge in; their last album - 'The Courage Of Others" from 2010 is held as a modern American classic in some quarters.  With such aggressive circumstances weaker acts would have bulked at the task, how did Midlake fare on these choppy waters.

Starting off with the title track of the album, the band has gone a little more rockier than their predecessors have been.  Still with that wonderful sense of 70's prog which give them attention, their new singer (previous guitarist Eric Pulido) you can sense the change in the band straight away.  The band have said that they are now more focused going forward as a unit then being driven by one man's vision.  "Antiphon" is a song from the beginning and re-introduces the band perfectly, continuing this trend is "Provider" which seems so familiar and old, yet at the same time so modern and up to date.  The song is about becoming their own provider and it serves as a good metaphor for what has happened to them, it is a very powerful song from this band at this point.  "The Old And The Young" continue the good work so far, this album is practically manic compared to what they have released before; it as if the loss of Smith has made them step up a notch and focus their skills.  It is almost as if their haunting past is being taken to one side, given a drink and a rest and the new version is burying the past so to speak.

But fear not dear Midlake fan; the slower times are still here.  "It's Going Down" starts off the more introspective section of the album, the band obviously have taken note not to place all their good songs at the beginning of the album.  The album needed the change back to be honest, the only thing is that it is just that little bit too short if I am honest, but it is still a decent moment.  The same cannot be levelled at instrumental "Vale", it is not just decent - it is towering, majestic, wonderful.  Starting off with a build to a fantastic solo and jam, this song shows what the band have became and still incorporates that which has gone before.  Track of the album, hands down.  Coming quickly on its heels is "Aurora Gone", beginning with a haunting flute solo, drifting bells and guitar work this again gives the feel of old to the band.  Yet it does not feel retrospective (apart from the overall 70's vibes which is the band's bread and butter), it feels fresh and liberated from something.  The band is clearly more confident for their improvement cannot be understated.

"Ages" is the first track which seems to struggle a bit on the album if the truth be told.  It is played incredible well, but it just does nothing for me.  Every song cannot be a classic though and "This Weight" is a lot better from the refreshed group.  With the focus being on the being, the men keep on producing some quality material here.  "Corruption" is the second last track which keeps the suspense going for this album, the song dwells on the darkness out there and what it can do the song broads and comes at you in waves, slow and constant and driven.  Ending the album is the twin of "Provider" in "Provider II" - like a haunting carousel of fading colour and regret this brings the album to a glorious and mournful end.  It would not be out of place to say that this track is one of the best endings to an album that I have heard in 2013.  It brings home the new version of the band and shows that both versions of the band can co-exist.

This album is a surprise on many levels - I did not know that it was coming or what had gone on with the band.  To find out that it was made within six months from scratch is even more amazing, the split from their previous singer could actually be the making of them.  For their first effort as a band instead of a vision this is truly amazing; this will be held one day as the way to live on after the loss of your talisman.  Apart from one track this album is truly stunning.  If you want to hear the past played in a truly modern and wonderful style, you will not have to look much further; the kings are dead, long live the kings.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....

You can purchase the album from Spotify here

You can visit the Midlake website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

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