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Godsticks - The Envisage Conundrum (Album Review)

Monday, 11 March 2013 Written by David Ball
Godsticks - The Envisage Conundrum (Album Review)

In many ways prog albums are the most difficult of all to review. By their very definition they are designed and written to be experimental which can make it particularly difficult to define a band's sound. Now on their second full album (along with a self-titled debut EP), South Wales 3-piece Godsticks are aiming to find that perfect balance between being accessible to all but remaining true to their roots.

ImageHaving impressed critics with their first two offerings, as a result of their excellent musicianship and willingness to push boundaries, 'The Envisage Conundrum' sees them reaching more into their live act for inspiration. As a result this is a heavier, more straight ahead album while still retaining their strong sense for improvisation.

Opening with a short orchestral intro, the album bursts to life as second track 'Caught In A Bind' blasts in with real power. Heavy with bass and drums, and with a thick, classic style heavy metal riff, it's sure to become a favourite at live shows.

For most of the central part of the album, the most striking thing is the sense of melody. Blended with the interesting way the sounds are built, it makes the album a compelling listen most of the way through. 'In A Way That Ended Me' and 'Submerged' in particular stand out with their balancing of unusual rhythms alongside both heavy sections and areas of vocal delicacy.

There is a point about three quarters of the way through where things start getting a little repetitive, I'm not convinced 'A Brief Foray' adds anything to what has come before, and while 'Disclosure' shows off the virtuoso musicianship which is abundant throughout, a jazz interlude feels a little self indulgent. It is to Godsticks credit mind you, this is the only point which feels this way. For the most part the tracks here have been carefully honed avoiding any temptation to break away into never-ending solos just because they can. It's a restraint which both benefits this recorded content and will likely allow them plenty of freedom when performing live to create some truly epic moments.

What follows is the best section of the album. Each of the three parts of 'Borderstomp' are excellent and provide a little bit of everything this band is about. Every part perfectly mixes heavy drum percussion, riffs alternating from twinkling and complex to straight and heavy while Darran Charles vocals are at their peak throughout. It's also the most obvious demonstration of their increased confidence in writing as it's the albums lyrical highlight. There's a huge amount going on but it manages never to feel overcrowded.

For me this was the peak 'The Envisage Conundrum' should've finished on. Final track, 'Raised Concerns', isn't bad but its not the triumphant type of closing you expect from an album which opens so ferociously 45 minutes earlier.

There's no question 'The Envisage Conundrum' is another step forward for Godsticks and it can't be understated that many of these songs will likely sound much fuller and more explosive when performed live. It's without doubt this is a further development from 'Spiral Vendetta' and its guitar driven focus should bring more new fans in, as I expect supporting Mike Keneally Band in the coming weeks will. The development of melody, dynamism of all threes musicianship and intricacy impresses throughout and more than anything its ability to be both original and challenging while maintaining an accessibility often lost with these type of records shows a band who could be on their way towards something special. Best of all, at no point in this review was I tempted to compare them to anyone else, a sure sign of a rare originality.

'The Envisage Conundrum' is available now. Godsticks are on tour throughout March and April supporting Mike Keneally Band, dates and ticket details are below.

Mike Keneally Band 2013 European Tour Dates are as follows:

Mar 20th - UK, London, Borderline
Mar 21st - UK, Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach
Mar 22nd - UK, Manchester, Night 'n Day Cafe
Mar 23rd - UK, Newcastle, The Cluny
Mar 24th - UK, Edinburgh, The Voodoo Rooms
Mar 27th - Tilburgh, Paradox
Mar 28th - Germany, Weinheim, Cafe Central
Mar 29th - Netherlands, Amsterdam, Paradiso
Mar 30th - Germany, Heiligenhaus, Der Club
Mar 31st - Germany, Reichenbach, Bergkeller
Apr 2nd - Germany, Würzburg, Kellerperle
Apr 3rd - Belgium, Verviers, Spirit of 66

Click Here to Compare & Buy Mike Keneally Band Tickets.

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