For Martin Smith and the rest of Army Of Bones, the Delirious? comparisons will be ever-present, due to Smith's distinctive voice and songwriting style. But with a completely new backing band behind him, Army Of Bones is in no way Delirious?, though the sonic blueprint is often similar. Smith's voice is a fine instrument, and his songwriting chops are still top notch, and Army Of Bones' fine debut album deserves to be measured by its own considerable merits.
With both feet firmly planted in the Britpop soil of the last 25 years, Army Of Bones sounds contextual in their native Great Britain, while adding their own chilly, Nordic vibe to an album that examines the human existence with and without the Lord. Martin sways far away here from the worship anthems that his former band ushered in the modern worship movement with.
"Don't Be Long" kicks off the album with a nod to Radiohead (as influential a British band that has graced the world in the last 30 years) and a cascading, screeching vocal plea for someone to return and make things right (presumably Jesus, but the band has made a conscious effort to use subtle language in this regard). "Time, is not on my side / I can't make it better, with the wounds that I hide / but I know there'll be an end / and the end will see the stars begin to fall / Love will still be here to save us all / I'm still waiting for you, waiting for you / I'm still waiting for you, waiting for you / don't be long / don't be long / don't be long." The majestic build of the throbbing baseline and icy guitar of the tune's middle section also call to mind U2, and The Edge's trademark use of symphonic guitar tones to convey emotion. It's a great, epic start to the album.
"Dead In The Water" features a fearsome, crunchy guitar line that brings to mind the English grunge band Bush, and is a fantastic follow on to the album's slow-build first song. "Break Away" has the throbbing disco template of 80's era Pink Floyd, and dances along as a welcome bit of fun after the first two tunes. "Love Song For A City" is the album's best moment, and a plea for the band's homeland of the UK to experience a revival: "See the writing on the wall / The words they seem to glow / Should I run or bow the knee? / This is my homeland, speak to me / I'm gonna walk through this field of miracles I'm gonna wait for you here / A love song for a city / A love song for you / I'm singing a love song / A love song to you / To you / We're an army, we're the bones / A concrete choir of broken souls / Where is wisdom? / Where's your song? / Sing to our wasteland, don't be long" The repeating of the refrain "don't be long" from the album's opening song is a wonderful way to create unity within the album, and writing a love song to your homeland in this way is a unique perspective indeed.
The following, Biblically titled "Ecclesiastes," treats its theme of meaninglessness without the Lord well. The twin rockers "Batteries" and "River" raise the pulse of the album before the stunning and epic "The Day The Fire Went Out" rounds out the album with a further, Old Testament style prophetic plea for the "fire" (presumably the Holy Spirit, or the life of the Church in the Western World) to not go out.
Army Of Bone's debut album is a master's class in taking influences and tweaking them just so to create something that is both unique and familiar at the same time. The melodic, chilly and epic Britpop template is the perfect bed for a prophetic and pleading album. Army Of Bones is a fantastic return for Smith, and one of the very best albums of the year.- Review date: 12/5/17, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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