Punk-rock stalwarts tap into the supernatural’s pop heart on a concept record dead on set on rescuing fellow people from dark fate.
Five years into their existence this transatlantic hardcore team – singing six-stringers Sean Elliott and Alfie Agnew who found fame with D.I. and THE DAMNED rhythm section of Paul Gray and Rat Scabies – seem to have finally harnessed what they originally planned to achieve. After an on-stage outing, preserved for posterity, has proved the quartet’s chemistry is right on the money, the foursome bring forth the robust idea of afterlife as an escape and a warning for humanity. Not that the concept hindered the band’s burst of energy in any way or robbed them of ability to surprise.
Despite the players’ pedigree, punk spikes don’t protrude from the tuneful tapestry the ensemble weave over the course of these twelve tracks whose Beatles-esque motifs merrily defy the deceptively gruesome flow of the album’s doom-and-gloom subject matter. From the funereal jangle of “All The Lonely Souls” which unfolds into a mesmeric titular epic that will pitch a rock ‘n’ roll anxiety in the record’s harmonies-filled heart and return as a celestial anthem further on down the line, to the light ripple of “New World” which wraps it up, there’s a lot to enjoy.
All voiced by Elliott and Agnew to paint a few characters and chisel a coherent story, the songs take you on a sort of Orpheus journey to the underworld and back to save the mankind from spiritual downfall, but Scabies’ drums and Gray’s bass anchor it to the joyous present. While the vocals are blended with the instrumental swirl in the beginning and smeared with spectral synthesizers, as if to disorient the listener, even though the raging, raga-spiced “So Long” – where focus is on when to bid farewell to the life dedicated to music – reveals the full dynamic spectrum of the group, as cymbals and toms bang against a guitars wall, the clear sonics of the bass-spanked “A Child’s Eyes” speak volumes about the innocence the veterans still harbor in their collective soul.
Still, it’s the vaudevillian jaunt of “Time Machine” – propelled by a piano to segue into the psychedelic blues “Man With Nothing To Lose” which yearns to “hit 1980 and go see The Damned” – that’s the most welcoming cut on display. And if the equally memorable melody of “Real Me” and the acoustic strum-stricken “The Council Of Purgatory” hark back to the ’60s’ sweetness, the anger-fueled, organ-driven funk of “Two Tickets To The Afterlife” is drenched in hard-rock heaviness – strong enough to sway a full arena – and “Greetings From The Other Side” offers a darkened tapestry of a prog stripe.
It’s a true trip to the other side. The awesome foursome have finally exceeded the sum of their part with “Séance” and approach the greatness their pedigree deserves.