Young Guns- All Our Kings Are Dead
Bring the Noises Reviews Editor first witnessed a Young Guns show in Manchester, supporting Lostprophets on their pre Reading/Leeds Festival warm up shows. Despite the coup of such a slot this would make for a challenging experience. Lostprophets fans are eager to see their favourite Welshmen at the best of times, but having been off the circuit for years during the tumultuous recording of their 4th album, the suspense had reached an almost paralyzing peak. However, the boys came out and delivered an enterprising performance, clearly embracing the opportunity, and managing to convert a sizable chunk of audience, most of whom were completely naive to the band previous to this display.
They’ve been touring on the strength of the lauded Mirrors EP for a dogs age, building up a loyal fan-base via stand out festival and support slots, which eventually awarded them a pretty much sold-out headline tour, where friends and other promising acts Outcry Collective and Save Your Breath accompanied. It’s rare for an EP to gift a band with the privileges, opportunities and magazine inches that the Young Guns have received, but there has always been something special about the five-some. On the multiple times we have caught the band in the last year we are yet to witness a lackluster performance. However small or even industry jammed ( and therefore somewhat dry) the band perform with vigor. This has no small part in their already jam packed personal success story…..
‘Sons of Apathy’, the single which saw the band rocking out in a darkened leafy studio introduces the album, and what a suitable way to do so – finely tuned listeners or Young Gun geeks will spot the album’s title in it’s first verse. Receiving its first play exclusively on Daniel P Carter’s Radio 1 Rock Show, this track has fast become one of the highlight of their live shows, with a sea of fist thrusts directed stage wards during the bullish chorus. It’s from the get go that we see that the frontman, the exotically named Gustav Woods willingness to tackle extremely personal issues, with track one devoted to the consequences of growing up without a father figure. Whilst many songwriters may tackle such a subject from a self pitying, angst ridden or disturbed point of view, positivity shines through on this occasion, hinting that perhaps these seemingly negative childhood aspects, events or absences can become a spur to avoid repeat behavior and strive for more. Gustav has also commented that he ‘as a generation, we are very much lacking in positive role models to follow.” a feeling which the lyrics comment on also. Throughout the album, lyrically the band have managed to straddle perfectly relatable subjects matters, punchy phrases with just the right amount of intelligent metaphors and colourful language, while managing to avoid the pitfall of pretentiousness.
Their current single, ‘Crystal Clear’ follows, and with its pulsating bass layered with the singing guitars- an element which is consistently strong throughout the album- it is another winning combination. It has also proved to be an ideal song to create a call-and-response moment between the frontman and the increasingly adoring crowd during a live scenario . There is a pleasing break section, where rolling drums evolve to thrashing, and a cliche yet efficient pause leads back into the infectious and uplifting chorus. And it’s here we see the power of production and the little tweaks and details which can elevate a track, the ‘something new’ echo is a fine example of this.
Now for the first of the brand spanking new songs, and what a revelation‘Meter and Verse’ is. Polished and mature, a band well into the Autumn of their career would be proud of such a heart-wrenching and soaring power ballad. A song of this magnitude has the ability and promise to muster interest from those outside the realms of the alternative scene, much like the likes of Creed and Hooberstank managed with their breakout rock ballads (although I hope Young Guns could sustain a bit better). Once again the seemingly minor musical decisions have impacted the overall affect, with subtle hints of string synths glimmering through the guitar, suitably enhancing its emotive quality. I have no doubts that this will become an anthem for many and a track sure to cause tingles when witnessed live. Animated, interactive, hurtling recklessly around stage and exerting inhuman amounts of energy has become a trademark of a YG show, so I would be intrigued to see how they cope when the mood is taken down a notch with a song that calls for a more vulnerable and reflective stage presence.
For ‘Weight of the World’ we hear a slightly different side to Gus’s vocals for the verse, softer and intentionally languid, still showing off vibrato, but returning at full pelt for the chorus.The proper old fashioned rockin’ guitar solo steals the limelight, and in our opinion you can’t have enough shameless guitar ‘whale’ing. Luckily accomplished fret work from Fraser and John Taylor is in abundance throughout the record.The song concludes with electrical whirring and distortion as if the weight of world has caused the boys to pass out from exhaustion…..
Next up is arguably the heaviest track on the album, that said there is still more than enough decipherable melody incorporated into D.O.A to keep everyone happy. The inclusion of gang style vocals hint that their time supporting certain bands has made an impact.This has, in parts quite a different vibe to the rest of the album with a clear punky/hardcore feel.
A different pace follows with‘ Stitches’ . Solid drumming throughout, courtesy of Ben Joliife is the backbone of this song. They have successfully experimented with vocal texture, where shouting vocals are hinted behind the main melody. It is concluded with lilting vocals and gentle piano keys, but only after another impressive guitar sequence of course. Another stand out track!
‘Winter Kiss’ always had ‘single’ scribed all over it and the generous boys were kind enough to give it to us for free. This was savvy on their part, a sure fire way to stir people to check out the rest of the EP and increase intrigue for their long awaited debut.
It starts with a haunting synth tune, one could accompany any spooky movie, something with was tapped into appropriately for their ghostly accompanying video. Late in the song ‘I wanna sleep but I hear voices,’ returns slower and diluted, with eerie breathy ‘ahhhs’ behind – the band often use this sequence rock out in unison on stage. It is ferocious from the start with screaming guitars and a rich sound that altogether equal an epic sound. We had always hoped that the big sounds we’d previewed with their singles would hint to the sound of the album as a whole when it finally arrived.
‘Elements’ begins with a deep dark and dirty classic riff, followed by an exposing section where Gus is out on his own, so bleak that you can even hear his inhale, the previous brooding riffs follows. After the interest-adding change of tempo, the section that follows has such depth musically, the layers of rhythms, vocals and melody making for a really luxurious sound. The bass rhythm courtesy of Simon Mitchell keeping momentum throughout.
‘After the War’ starts with a beautiful cinematic melody via strings, this is given urgency with a pulsating undercurrent of strings also. This flows into a contrasting offbeat rhythm and echoey vocals with subtly kinetic bass-line underneath. Whatever your feelings about 30 Seconds To Mars this track reminds me of their ability to achieve a similarly grand sound. After a mere couple of listens this song is well and truly ingrained and sure to become an anthem among the fans.
The intro and verse of ‘Endless Grey’ features intentionally chaotic and hyperactive drumming , punctuated with the twangs of the electric guitar..Once the vocals come in the song is complex and layered, the suspension and harmonies used in the chorus creating another anthemic sequence .Tempo changes and the pause technique is once again used to great affect.
‘At the Gates’ starts with an almost oriental sounding tinging of strings, this is followed by grim lyrics, perhaps the most negative on the record. Like the majority of the tracks you know pretty much immediately that this is to be another grand affair. Ben and Simon spoil us with rhythmical patterns that urge the song forward and lead into another towering chorus. The only thing even slightly negative I can say, which I must admit is me clutching a straws so that this review does not appear overly gushy, is that the concept of shouting out, with no one hearing is something which has covered in many songs before, but not necessarily at gates…..Rooftops perhaps? That said the shouting back up vocals which precede the drum/bass outro is extremely strong.
Surely ‘Beneath the Waves’ was predestined for a Stadium, featuring many aspects that recall many metal bands from the nineties. I was not lucky enough to witness their recent momentous support slot with rock (and hair) idols Bon Jovi l so I am unsure whether they took the opportunity to try it out. If not, I’m confident this their will be numerous opportunities in their future.
I glad to say that this body of work more than backs up why the band have been worthy of the plethora of exciting opportunities that have come their way, some of which may have seemed somewhat premature for a band only equipped with a short EP and a handful of singles. It transpires that confidence in the bands potential was astute, and finally we have proof of their worth in our hands. However, in this day and age having good material is not enough in the alternative scene, but their powerhouse live performances, good looks, and willingness to interact with fans whilst performing ( and at the Merch stand, and via various social networking sites), has and will definitely help. Lets hope the fans will be forgiving when the boys when they are so successful that responding to the inundation of messages becomes nigh on impossible.
Its a rarity to listen to an album from start to finish without wanting to skip, but somehow these relative newbies have managed to put together a collection that consists only of, for lack of more sophisticated words…. absolute belters. They haven’t tried too hard to be cool (although I’m not saying you aren’t fellas) but their sound isn’t of the persuasion favoured by NME covers if you know what I mean. It confidently hints, via majestic guitar solos, prime riffs and elaborate drumming, at old fashioned rock, and what a pleasure it is to hear it from a fresh perspective.