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NEW MODEL ARMY – ‘Winter’ Review

NEW MODEL ARMY – ‘WINTER’

nma-winterEver since that appearance on The Tube in 1984 when my eyeballs and eardrums were introduced to New Model Army playing Christian Militia and Smalltown England (the latter seemed to speak directly to me living in my small Midlands town) I have simply loved New Model Army. Yes, they have divided opinion as their early energy and raw songwriting morphed into more polished introspection and band members left. Some albums were better than others although most contained 3 or 4 classics. 2009’s Today is a Good Day was an absolute classic fueled by the anger at the global economic collapse. The reception of Between a Dog and a Wolf was more subdued despite critical acclaim and the documentary on the band.

As the video for Winter (see below) hit Punk Online towers a few weeks ago, we were filled with anticipation for the new album. It’s become trendy to criticize bands like New Model Army who have stuck to their views for 30+ years but, the new album defies those “negative Nellys” as it packs a punch and power as relevant as any punk band plying their trade today.

Beginning with the aptly named Beginning where Sullivan’s vocals are backed up by some of the gnarliest sounding bass – it’s clear that this is going to be a trip. The track builds slowly with a melancholy feel lamenting past glories but it builds and builds adding layers of guitars and a piano solo – it continues for seven whole minutes with over two minutes of sheer power towards the end. Phew! New Model Army are back!

Just as you try to catch your breath after Sullivan screams “Hold on” the band launches into Burn the Castle – that just about suckers you into thinking that the pace will slow down before you are catapulted into a protest song that has you raging against the machine…the chorus implores you to burn down the castle instead of rioting in your neighborhood. Justin sounds as angry as ever and for those of us wondering where the protest songs of 2016 are, well, they are here on this brilliant new album.

Next up is the aforementioned title track, Winter – a song that sounds as close to 1980s New Model Army as any I have heard in recent years. It’s a song about global warming with a simply classic video with Sullivan pleading for “snowfall, cold wind and winter” – It is a song that has you scratching your head again wondering how on earth this band did not become huge.

 

 

Part the Waters introduces an acoustic guitar as the lyrics take on the plight of refugees. The track then marches along to militaristic drums and heavy, heavy bass and an angst ridden vocal delivery imploring the listener to think. It’s followed by Eyes Get Used to the Darkness another song that is quintessentially New Model Army in it’s drive and passion and storytelling. I simply fell in love with the song with the stunningly brilliant lyric “if our eyes get used to the darkness, we will see the damage we have we done…” – it is a contender for song of the year. For me, New Model Army have released one of the best albums of 2016.

The 6th track of the 13, Drifts is different in that it bounces along to a strong drumbeat and has that folk/punk feel that the band is so good at – it’s almost Eastern European Gypsy punk in feel. Born Feral is six minutes and 25 seconds of rhythm reminiscent lyrically of the Green and the Grey with a chorus to match.  After a keyboard interlude, the tribal drums kick in to drive the song home.

There is not a bad song on the album from the beautiful acoustic guitar led Die Trying to the ominous bass driven rock of Devil with it’s Nine Inch Nails style chorus.

Strogoula (the highest waterfall in Greece) is different again – an urgent folk song is the best description I can come up with. The winter theme is carried into Echo November a track that introduces some female backing vocals and has a more pop feel.

The penultimate track, Weak and Strong is much more in your face with some super drumming and it sets up the closer, After Something. The final track has a Spear of Destiny Never Take Me Alive guitar sound and some classic evocative New Model Army lyrics. It leaves you satisfied, like welcoming home a friend who you haven’t seen for years and realizing you’ve both grown but you still have so much in common. It’s simply a brilliant listen.

Check out the bands website here http://www.newmodelarmy.org/ and also take a look at their massive European tour this Fall.

Stumpy – Punk Online

 

Track Listing

  1. Beginning
  2. Burn the Castle
  3. Winter
  4. Part the Waters
  5. Eyes Get Used to the Darkness
  6. Drifts
  7. Born Feral
  8. Die Trying
  9. Devil
  10. Strogoula
  11. Echo November
  12. Weak and Strong
  13. After Something

 

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