Emergence posed a bit of a challenge for me.
I am not familiar with the musical genre known as “grunge,” but I was intrigued when hard rock/grunge band Godsticks contacted me to ask if I would review their new album, slated for release on September 4. (Perhaps “grunge” is not the ideal or even the most accurate word, but I will use it for consistency’s sake). Thanks to a suggestion from fellow Progarchist Carl Olson, I discovered the musical talent of Soundgarden, and in particular their album Superunknown. This provided a solid starting point from which I could better appreciate and understand Godsticks’ newest release.
The three Welshmen of Godsticks play with as much dexterity – and power – as any “mainstream” alternative/grunge band. Darran Charles can shred on guitar, and his edgy vocals remind me of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, although his voice is deeper. Steve Roberts (drums) and Dan Nelson (bass) make up the rhythm section, and both men prove more than capable of matching Charles’ frenetic playing. The album is high octane and high energy, but most of the songs may be considered “radio friendly.” And like the albums of more prominent grunge bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam, Emergence is noticeably pessimistic in tone, although not overwhelmingly so (see Ruin, Much Sinister, Hopeless Situation, etc.). An underlying sense of hope can be detected in the music, although this hope must be searched for, and may best be described as gritty. Take, for instance, this excerpt from the title track:
“They pray that we won’t form a tribe
Let’s leave all that bull**** to one side
It’s clear that when the place gets stormed
We’ll find the strength to emerge reformed”
Each song is excellent, and I would recommend reading the lyrics while listening to each tune. All That Remains is a beautiful ballad, the softest song on the album. Charles demonstrates his skills on acoustic guitar on this tune, but he truly shines on the electric guitar. The title track is a frenzied rocker, and from the opener Below the Belt to the closer Lack of Scrutiny, this album will hold – or more likely command – your attention. Although Roberts and Nelson no doubt contribute to the album’s overall quality, Charles is the driving force behind the band, his guitar, vocals, and lyrics taking centerstage. I highly recommend this album for anyone interested in a creative hard rock/grunge band. Godsticks deserves more attention not just from the progressive rock world, but also from the larger music world, and hopefully this album will only propel them forward to even bigger things.