Spirit Of Unicorn 2023
Revenge is not sweet, because vengeance is bitter: English art-rockers sophomore offering cuts into existential struggles.
The world has been bleeding since this British group debuted with "Say" back in 2017, and its follow-up couldn’t sound more sanguine – and less sanguine, too, for that matter – and one doesn’t have to look at the two records’ covers to see how fake info and other communicational cul-de-sacs may make humanity close not their mouth, and scream in silence, but their eyes, and cry out loud. Payback’s a bitch, of course, and here’s a platter with a title and a musical content which spell such bitter truth most eloquently. Also, here’s a neo-prog ensemble old-school enough to employ a barrage of heavy riffs without resorting to metal tropes, and though the arrangements on display barely reflect the dangers that, as quite a few of the lyrics suggest, lurk in our everyday routine, the collective’s melodies feel alluring when hard veneer is peeled away.
More so, once a strange pattern of pseudo codas will have ceased to grate, genuine gems emerge at the surface, the contrast between initial sonic onslaught and occasional ethereal glimmer stunning the listener despite the majestic orchestral waves of “Glow” serving as a harbinger of thrills to appear further on. As a result, while there’s a tangible peril in the taut guitar and bass interplay on “Asleep At The Wheel” which ramps up aural excitement from the very start before abating to let Sarah Bayley’s deadpan voice instill dread in the flow until the band leader Rob Cottingham’s crystalline ivories turn the storm into the calm, “Trip Wire” shatters his angelic vocalese with a powerful rock attack, as the chanteuse’s folk-inflected lines bounce off Graham Brown’s thunderous drums until James Hards’ electric licks soar to the skies. However, if “Rogue” that’s driven by Paul Stocker’s four-string rumble translates barbed heftiness to pop polyphony and to artsy gloss in no time, upping the momentum only to resolve tension in acoustic lace and dual serenading, “The Love” unfurls a magnificent, Celtic-flavored march for romantics to join in
Still, whereas “New Beauty” morphs Gothic madrigal first into dramatic electronica and then takes it onto a Renaissance tapestry, “Déjà Vu” demonstrates a slightly detached balladry as though to fathom the distance between this flight of fantasy and the purely-’80s keyboard splashes which “Jumping On The Moon” offers in spades until theatrical passages remove the polish. But how can one measure the soundscape of “Save The Earth” whose magnetic allure and snippets of speech pull everybody in and let go after the piano runs of the album’s titular epic shatter fragility to vibrant smithereens and bid a warm farewell at the platter’s cosmic finale? How? Through sensual pleasure, perhaps, and that’s the aspect of “Nemesis” everybody’s able to grasp: here’s an album to rock hearts and roll souls.