Hard rockers Godsticks are a rising band within the progressive rock scene. Having only heard of them thanks to their relation to The Aristocrats and The Pineapple Thief, I was overwhelmed upon my first listen of their upcoming album “Emergence.” With assertive and heavy rhythms, booming bass and intricate drum work, I was blown away by the sheer power and skill of the band. If they haven’t reached superstar status from the progressive rock community yet, they will surely receive the recognition they deserve with “Emergence.”
Hailing from South Wales, Godsticks are Darran Charles (vocals/guitar/keys), Steve Roberts (drums/keys), and Dan Nelson (bass). Despite their “progressive” tag, they are much more than that, ranging even towards that grungy hard rock and metal sound reminiscent of great rock bands from the 90’s and 00’s like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. This is easily evidenced in the opening track “Below the Belt,” with those deep, chuggy chords in the verse that hit you below the belt, and with a bridge section similar to older Riverside material. But just because “Emergence” contains such a deep sound doesn’t mean it is universally low. “All That Remains” is by far the softest song on this album, containing acoustic guitars, subdued drum beats, orchestral instruments, and even guest vocalist Kaysha Louvain. The lighter feel is inserted directly into the middle of this album, the perfect interlude for the second half of this aggressive album.
The keyboards in this album are so subtle, they almost go unnoticed. Contributed by Darran and Steve, there are plenty of moments where lighter and higher tones pass through the headphones, standing out from the low sound of the album if your listening for it. Take the intro to “Ruin,” where the keyboards are at their most apparent. Even with the arrangement, the listener can’t help but focus on the high hat and snare of the drum set. Songs like “Exit Stage Right” and the instrumental “Leave Or Be Left” have beautiful moments with the keyboards complementing groovy bass lines, something I’d like to see more of with their next album. I feel the presence of the keyboards are the perfect palate cleanser, considering the album would be repetitively and consistently boring with its bassy atmosphere.
I love to hear Darran’s chromatic voice dancing around the scales used in every song. His delivery is very unique, residing somewhere between mellow and energetic. Despite having a relatively narrow range, his low-to-mid register voice perfectly blends with the naturally deep sound of the album. The quick paced and deeper voice of “One Percent” perfectly complements the lyrical content, focusing on that “one percent” we’ve all heard of in the news. My only criticism with his vocal style is it seems Darran is trying to get too many words out with too little time. Perhaps fewer words or longer verses would solve the problem, but I nonetheless enjoy hearing him sing.
The orchestrations of “Emergence” are weirdly complex, since it took me a few listens to realize how sophisticated the album really is. When at first I heard the continually rough and fuzzy rhythm guitar, I was later corrected when focusing on the individual components themselves. Darran’s guitar style, although primarily rhythm-centric, are clearly more melodic than they lead on. Intricate fills and harmonies are incorporated throughout the album, especially in the choruses and pre-verses in the song “Much Sinister.” The same goes with “One Percent,” a song containing plenty of lead guitar overlapping a strong rhythm. Its catchy riffs and unforgettable outro make this song the most striking off the album, and is a song I always look forward to when playing this album. Much of the guitar on this album follows suit, with seemingly simple structures, that is, until you sit down and hear them. The drums, on the other hand, come across as complex as they sound (at least to me). There are so many powerful drum moments on “Emergence,” but I especially love Steve’s presence on the title track. Powerful, technical, and beautiful.
Album closer “Lack of Scrutiny” is an interesting track, being one of the most non-Godsticks sounding songs on the album. With its eastern-influenced scales (a la Between The Buried And Me), the incorporation of horn instruments, and the drawn-out instrumental intro, the song is the most unique track on “Emergence.” For an album that utilizes a similar formula for every track, “Lack of Scrutiny” throws that comfortable feeling out the window. Because of the track’s length (lasting nearly seven minutes), Godsticks takes advantage of the time to experiment as much as they wanted. The result is truly a gift, as the listener experiences the most dazing guitar rhythm, most prominent bass guitar, and soaring vocals on the album. What a great way to close off an album!
A solid performance, I urge everyone to purchase Godsticks’ “Emergence,” which will be available on September 4th. Fans of artists and bands like John Lancaster, Big Big Train, and Haken will definitely enjoy this album. Please support Godsticks by visiting their website, or by following them on Facebook or Twitter. You can also support them by checking out their ten minute documentary “The Making of Emergence,” which can be seen below: