Following the release of Welsh rockers Godsticks’ new studio album – Faced With Rage the band have released a video for the song “Angry Concern”.
The clip was filmed during the recording sessions for Faced With Rage at the world-renowned Monnow Valley Studio in Wales. Darran Charles, Godsticks vocalist, guitarist and main writer talks in depth about the track and their time at Monnow: “‘Angry Concern’ is probably one of our most experimental sounding tracks to date and testament to how integral each band member’s contribution is these days. Dan and Tom’s bass and drums are key to keeping an aggressive edge to what is a deceptively vocal-heavy track. I remember that this was one of the first tracks we recorded drums for at Monnow Valley and unusually for us, we ended up tracking drums for the entire song rather than section by section. This ensured a certain dynamism to the performance and I remember that after Tom’s very first take of this track we were all stunned into silence, including James our producer – it blew us away! One of my very favourite drum performances since the band first got together.”
Godsticks, having recently toured with The Pineapple Thief and appeared at Planet Rockstock festival, have also confirmed they will playing two headline shows in the UK in May – their hometown of Cardiff and in London.
A rather excited Darran Charles comments on taking that step to headlining: “After spending the best part of a decade as an opening act you can imagine we have been chomping at the bit to finally do our own headline shows. We’ve more than paid our dues I think, and with 4 albums behind us it’s time to stand on our own 8 feet! We’ll be performing tracks that we’ve never played live before and rehearsing harder than ever to ensure these are the best two Godsticks shows you’ve seen to date. We genuinely cannot wait!!”
Here’s a bit of that old serendipity doo dah that we often talk about. A few months ago at the behest of Good King Martin of Progradarshire I ventured forth on a cold wet Bristol Sunday evening to see Gavin Harrison and Bruce Soord steal pineapples in a German themed drinking den (which I’m reliably informed is larger than the feast) in the ensuing review which I am sure Martin will cleverly link to here, I discovered Godsticks for the first time.
My definition of a great support band is one where you enjoy the set so much you want to buy the album, I have discovered bands like Tilt and Jemima Surrender amongst others like this, and the only regret at the Godsticks gig was the fact that their set was heavily dependant on their next album ‘Faced With Rage’, which hadn’t been released yet.
Well, the good news for all you Godsticks fans, and all those who enjoyed their sets on the recent Pineapple Thief tours is that it’s now out, and I have been listening to it all week on my commute in, good job really, otherwise this would be a terribly pointless review (what’s new? Ed.).
Bit of history, Godsticks were formed in Cardiff back in 2008 the band has Darran Charles at the front, his guitar sound and vocals are an intrinsic part of Godsticks (and his work as touring guitarist for the Pineapple Thief also showcased his versatility) and he is ably accompanied by guitarist Gavin Bushell, bassist Dan Nelson and ‘new boy’ – drummer Tom Price.
Live, Godsticks are a mixture of power, aggression and melody, and the new material they played sounded like it had been part of the set forever.
On record there is obviously a more subtle dynamic at work, and it is refreshing to hear a four piece traditional style guitar band sounding on record like they do on stage, there is no technical malarkey tampering with the songs, these are songs designed to be played full tilt in the context of a concert, and the fact that they work so well in both arenas is a testament to the writing and production.
This is the bands 4th album, and they weren’t a band I had ever heard of prior to seeing them rip the stage up on tour with the Pineapple Thief, and I’ll hold my hands up here and state I had seen them described as prog metal, which to this listener is a bit of a turn off. A lot of the new prog metal stuff is just loud music that goes on too long.
I would not describe Godsticks as prog metal, they have the knack for writing a catchy tune, they have a dynamic twin guitar sound that propels the music forward, and they are probably at the heaviest end of the music that would appeal to me, but prog metal? No.
In layman’s terms Godsticks Rock! They have an impressive musical armoury, and certainly live having an extra guitarist to do some of the heavy lifting allows Charles to be the front man he so obviously is. His exceptional vocal range and guitar playing, in tandem with Gavin Bushells guitar work, is one of the many highlights of this album, and tracks that they powered through live, like Open Your Eyes or Guilt are superb examples of the finest hard rock sounds, whilst on longer pieces like the excellent Everdrive, this is the sound of a band pushing themselves and moving forwards.
Godsticks live are an energetic and impressive prospect, on record they reinforce that opinion and to their credit have created an album that wholly reflects who they are as musicians, with what sounds to me like no compromises.
Based on the live show I saw I was expecting to enjoy this record, having heard it, I absolutely love it, and it has snuck in under the radar at the end of the year as what could be one of the top ten albums of 2017.
I once stole some coconut shampoo, I don’t know why, I didn’t have a coconut, however Bruce Soord has been getting away with Pineapple Thievery for over 18 years, and despite the gig being on a Sunday night, I was glad to finally see them on their latest musical jaunt, a worldwide tour de force promoting the latest long player ‘Your Wilderness’. In fact these dates were added later, as it seemed very odd when the tour was first announced that they bypassed the West Country entirely, and we can’t all afford to ship off over to that London for a gig
In fact this was the last gig of the tour, and practically a local one, as Bruce doesn’t live a million miles away, so it was almost a homecoming for him.
It’s always strange to go to a venue that is so intimate to see bands that you think should be playing such bigger venues, particularly when the venue is the Bierkeller, which is an odd little place. A cross between a traditional rock club and a German drinking haus, managing to not quite be one thing or t’other, and it’s also funny to go to the merch stand and see the latest release by the band being an audio/visual document of the show that you’re about to watch. (Where we Stood).
Support was by Welsh boys and K-Scope label mates Godsticks, whose set was made up of a majority of new material from their forthcoming album ‘Filled with Rage’, I had never heard of them before, and as I have probably said elsewhere one of my criteria for what makes a great gig is how good the support band are.
Godsticks are good, very good indeed, they have a wonderfully chunky sound, big riffs and big beats, and have that knack of turning up the amps but not losing the melody, whilst the set was bias towards the new record, ‘Faced with Rage’, which is out on October 13th, the older material from ‘Emergence’ fitted in superbly.
As a rock band go Godsticks are entertaining, musically adept and according to someone who was with me in the audience who had seem them before, they have come on leaps and bounds. All I know is they were a superb start to the show, and got the audience warmed up before the main event.
Last time I saw Bruce and the boys was on the ‘Magnolia‘ tour, back in The Fleece in Bristol in 2014, and then I thought they should be playing somewhere far bigger.
Now, with the addition of the busiest man of the night Godsticks guitarist and vocalist Darran Charles, who joined ThePineapple Thief live line-up, the amazing Gavin Harrison on drums, the Thief’s live sound is suddenly enhanced, and those simple tweaks helps take the burden of Bruce, so he can be the frontman he was always destined to be, and with Gavin on board this group of excellent musicians suddenly have raised their game even more.
There is a reason why the tickets say ThePineapple Thief with Gavin Harrison, and that is because Gavin is the contemporary musical equivalent to Bill Bruford, and is mesmerising to watch and hear as a drummer, astonishingly despite being a massive fan of his work, both solo and with bands like Porcupine Tree or King Crimson, this was the first time I have ever seen him live, and whilst I love The Pineapple Thief, and their latest album, seeing Gavin Harrison in action was something I couldn’t miss.
Being biased towards some of the later albums, and of course ‘Your Wilderness’, the entire album hits the stage at one point or another tonight, and songs like In Exile, Where We Stood and Tear you Up come across with power and intensity, the sound that a band confident in their ability can deliver with panache.
With Darran doing some of the heavy lifting, Bruce is like a man freed, playing to the audience and turning in some fine banter (‘forgetting’ to remember the album title of Godsticks new release being one of many exchanges), whilst material from ‘Magnolia’, including The One you left Behind (the strongest track from that album), absolutely rips the place apart with the power and skills of the band. With long term collaborators Steve Kitch on keys and Jon Sykes on bass, a lot of the focus is of course on the man in the corner of the stage. Every note is timed to perfection, every fill, every beat is on point, and nothing is superfluous, I feel a lot of prog drummers can get a lesson in how to do it from Gavin Harrison. Everything he does added so much to the songs that every so often I would get a great big grin on my face, as the whole sonic template meshed together to create an almighty sound.
I said before when I saw them at The Fleece a few years ago how I couldn’t understand why they aren’t playing bigger venues, and ironically the Bierkeller is slightly smaller than the Fleece, and I wish I could fathom why a band this powerful, with songs this melodic, this intelligent and this epic aren’t selling out and playing to the sort of crowds that bland wallpaper peddlers like Coldplay are doing. There is more musical intelligence in one of Bruce’s riffs or one of Gavin’s fills than there is in Coldplay’s recorded output for the last 5 years, and music this big and this powerful and emotional deserves a bigger platform. I guess that the benefit for us is that we get stadium-sized performances in smaller venues and to hear this music, this close is something we should all be thankful. If, and I say if, Gavin Harrison is still playing with The Pineapple Thief next time they tour then you owe it to yourself to go see them. If not, then we’ll always have ‘Where We Stood’, and the Bristol Bierkeller.
Darran Charles, Steve Kitch, Jon Sykes, Gavin Harrison and, of course, Bruce Soord are the current touring version of The Pineapple Thief. On the 11th February 2017 they played the Islington Assembly Rooms, touring in support of their ‘Your Wilderness’ album. It was a packed audience and was a much anticipated tour and album.
The set list for the night was:
Tear You Up
The one you left to Die
No Man’s Land
Alone At Sea
Take Your Shot
Show a little love
Fend For Yourself
Simple as that
Final Thing on my mind
Encores Snow drops / Nothing at best.
The show was recorded and will be released in various packages on the 6th October as ‘Where We Stood’.
First the limitations. I had no access to the package in itself with the multitude of mixes and vinyl stuff which Kscope have produced as a rather excellent showcase of a live band in full flow in front of a passionate audience. I will review what I have seen which is the concert DVD footage and the documentary footage. After all, this is the actual product they are selling in its many forms.
I am a music fan and believe the arena of the stage and live presentation is often the best judge of what a band is capable of in the purest form. A band can live or die on what it does on stage and putting out a DVD of a stage set is a brave thing to do for any band but it seems to be a common thing to do these days.
The set is mainly drawn from the recent album and shows the music in a new light with an additional dimension to the material. The band is completely together in this and are a very slick and tight outfit putting on a show worthy of a much larger stage and audience.
Visually it is a delight and it is also of a very high quality sound (which is available as a standalone live album). It comes as close to letting you be there during the actual performance as any DVD can. The band as individuals get fair shares of shots and it lingers on key musical moments like solos, licks or breaks. High points for me are, obviously, Snow Drops and Take Your Shot but Exilesand the opening tracks Tear You Up and The One You left To Die also deserve special mention. The set flows like water and is a fine surrogate for those who missed the tour and also as a souvenir for those who have seen this line up recently.
Bravely the new album fills the set list but has a different tone and quality to the studio version. Gavin brings a new feel to the older songs and adds to the live versions. Bruce is a great front man and connects to the audience well. This brings me to a couple of frustrations which I hope can be resolved with the DVD menu manipulations. The show is interspersed with interviews with the guys which ruins the flow of the concert. They could as easily been dropped into the additional 15 minute documentary of the back stage, pre and post show scenes. Instead I would have let the whole gig play and get the interactions of the band with the audience. I want to feel like I am at the gig and that gets broken up. Having said that it is relatively minor gripe for what is a great visual presentation of a great band in full flow.
For fans it is an essential purchase but also if you have even a slight interest in good intelligent music then buy it and see what ‘good’ looks like as well as sounds like.
About fifteen years ago I was rooting through a ‘bargain’ box of CD’s and came across one called ‘Jet Set Radio’, by Vulgar Unicorn, intrigued by the name and attracted by the price it found a place in my growing collection.
Then there was a time I collected my children for an all too rare visit from their Mum’s in Yeovil, a place full of history but devastated by modernity. As I wound up a hill toward their dingy council estate, I passed a theatre on the side of which a poster advertised a band, The Pineapple Thief (TPT). Again intrigued by the name I sought out what information I could and acquired ‘137’ and ‘Variations on a Dream’, and to this day they have remained my favourite two CDs of this band’s output; until this day…..
I still marvel how I came across this band and the fact I never realised the link between Vulgar Unicorn and TPT until a number of years later whilst browsing the sleeve notes to find the name Bruce Soord appeared on both. Now an established and sought after producer, dabbling in Wisdom of Crowds (with Katatonia’sJonas Renkse) and with a solo album under his belt that appears to have rejuvenated his musical intent he returns with the 11th studio offering under the TPT monicker, ‘Your Wilderness’.
Fresh from watching their stunning performance at Be Prog My Friend festival in Spain,as headliners on the Friday evening, (report available here on Progradar), I had mixed emotions about reviewing this. I have always really liked this band and rate them alongside Porcupine Tree (PT), though I have never agreed with the comparisons in music style that some seem to find.
That said, whilst brilliantly produced and lovingly packaged, I had felt the last couple of albums, despite credible reviews, had an air of frustration and the feeling of treading water. I had feared that as have others, their ascendency and Bruce’s rising popularity in the industry may turn them into mediocrity and (the only comparison I will draw) that they may fade and disappear like PT. You stupid boy, Thompson!
The cover picture could be interpreted as being in a wilderness and facing a difficult summit to climb, but I should have more faith……
A drum beat introduction leads in to Bruce’s distinct vocals as he berates being In Exileand the one line repeated chorus of “Don’t be afraid to miss me” ensures from the offset this album is not going to go amiss. As the music swells and the guitar riffs in identifiable TPT style dig in to your mind the song ends with notes from stalwart Steve Kitch‘s keyboards ricocheting into a distant canyon at the beginning of this musical pilgrimage.
Beautiful acoustic strumming and the inimitable airy vocals from Bruce take up the journey into No Man’s Land, and are joined by Steve’s piano for the ride. Slight pause for effect then the percussive rolls of guest drummer Gavin Harrison, (I know, Porcupine Tree, but still no comparisons) kick in redefining the sound, with Bruce’s cries floating over the top as further guest Darran Charles’ (Godsticks) guitars burst in with spine tingling energy and the bass playing of third man in the core trio, Jon Sykes, more than ably drives the engine of this vehicle through the canyon of music.
It has to be said that not having a permanent drummer at the moment does not detract. In fact, whilst bringing their own individual skills to the table, all the guest artists knit neatly into the TPT signature sound, adding a refreshing impetus.
Acoustic chords and a burst of electric guitar shoot out and Bruce advises he cannot Tear You Up, before the guitar flashes a short burst again and leaves way to the piano and vocals before crashing in with a heavy riff adding more energy to the drive and it definitely begins to feel like all these currents run to you, as it ends abruptly on those words.
The rhythms and riffs weave in and out returning at intervals on this album, linking tracks and connecting to the whole pathway of the album.
A gentler electronic sound with rhythm loops, like the breeze stirring desert sands along a dried up river, drifting across That Shore that once teemed with life. As the layered harmonizing echoes round a moonlit sky and you pull in for a rest, contemplating the aural massage of notes soothing your brow as you watch the sunrise.
As the orb rises in the sky, light guitar chords spread across the track and the bass heats up, Bruce encourages it’s time to make your move. You had best get under-way andTake Your Shot at the listening journey ahead as you are carried on another racing track, kicking dust in the face of non believers as you hurtle down the gravel road in search of musical pastures ahead and your tail-lights disappear into the early morning haze.
A feeling of calm guides you on acoustic guitar, keys and dreamy soundscapes as you wind down the car window and a cool breeze of clarinet from John Helliwell (Supertramp) gently ruffles the balmy air. You are all alone no one around in this wide expanse and you must Fend For Yourselfif you wish to discover what lies ahead. Calmly you make your way fingers drumming on the wheel to the gentle rhythm of the engine and a feeling of contentment with Bruce’s vocals imparting the details of where you are heading, to the woodwind.
Looping guitar chords fuel the drums as you make your way and Bruce urges you not to forget The Final Thing on Your Mind as the heat of the the music swells carrying you on, with orchestral lines guiding you down the straight track. The keyboards plot the course on the penultimate longest track, regret in Bruce’s restrained vocals at a broken relationship gone cold. Hurrying strings set the pace, the guitar solo points you toward your destination and the ticking of your engine sees this out.
As early evening approaches acoustic guitar shows you a coast coming into view, the familiar lights of a city flickering on as the sun drops away, almost there and Bruce reminds us of Where We Stoodat the start, a warm but fading memory. The echoing guitar and final piano refrain guides us smoothly home.
You can stand in the musical desert, you can blink at the sun and not want to go anywhere, or wish you were back where it all started. On this album, for me, the band seem to have regained focus and direction, overtaking their recent output and whilst I look back to the grand canyons they have journeyed before, I am more than happy to take a ride with them and see what lies ahead. Join us if you wish, there’s plenty of room and the ride is sweet.
All bands pics – credit Rob Monk.
Released 12th August 2016 (19th August in France).