Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Wales is certainly the land of song, from Bryn Terfel and Tom Jones right through to the mighty Budgie and Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, there’s always been a long history of magnificent music coming from the Valleys.
It’s been no secret that the Bridgend boys Those Damn Crows have been rising fast but ‘Inhale/Exhale’ is likely to see the quintet reach the stadium filling heights that fellow countrymen Stereophonics have achieved, such is its power, class and scope.
From the first note of howling feedback to the last sinister whisper, it’s an album full of promise fulfilled, each track enmeshed with big riffs and skyscraping melody. There’s a confidence here that has been unstoppably growing since the five friends first emerged onto the scene and having found their core sound they’re now fine tuning it but still unafraid to push themselves into other areas. With an already spreading huge legion of fans, this release is likely to break down even more doors and see the Crows fly higher than ever.
Demanding to be played at block demolishing volumes, opener ‘Fill the Void’ is a swirling maelstrom, the fretwork of Ian “Shiner” Thomas and David Winchurch both furious and precise, the hooks big enough to stay in your mind for days.
Along with this boldness is a snotty defiance, the joyful ‘Takedown’ a crushing and assured two fingers against anyone who would try to crush their spirit, vocalist Shane Greenhall putting real soul and muscle into every line, his exhortation to “walk with me and we’ll face the unknown” during ‘Man on Fire’ is one impossible to turn down.
Whilst there is a lot of their mainstream friendly choruses and hard rocking blasts, there’s also an adept balance of light and shade, the album displaying many textures as it goes from the Springsteen-ish widescreen anthem of ‘See You Again’, a song surely built for an open top drive down the California coast, to the fractured, jagged patterns and huge drums of ‘Wake Up Sleeper’. Amongst the sound and fury, the Crows also manage to fit in the touching ballad ‘This Time I’m Ready’, a sweeping and emotional piece with genuine impact that highlights a different side to their song writing.
Whilst the themes, both musically and emotionally, are at times cinematic, there’s a strong thread of humanity that runs through ‘Inhale/Exhale’, the band never losing sight of their roots whilst able to take things up several levels.
The playing on the album is their most assured yet too and along with Greenhall’s distinctive vocals, the equally eviscerating and nuanced guitar work of Thomas and Winchurch, the bass of Lloyd Wood and Ronnie Huxford’s drums are weapons of mass destruction, all five putting in the performances of their lives. Sonically speaking, this is going to be an album that will benefit equally those who want to absorb every phrase in headphones or the people who just want to enjoy an album you can put on to bounce around the living room to, throwing shapes and singing at the top of
The breathless potency of ‘Lay it all on Me’ with its intense musical structures, a brave, soaring and bruising ‘Find a Way’ and the made-for-Marvel heroism of the dark ‘Waiting for Me’ close the album in a
great, cascading run as they sprint towards the finish line, victory assured. However you look at it, whilst they don’t reinvent the wheel with this album it’s certainly a massive leap forward for the band and one they can be justifiably very proud of.
Those Damn Crows have the aura of a band to never sell out, sacrificing integrity for their bank balances, but more an outfit prepared to continue working hard, pushing onwards and releasing the music they want to make and the fans love.
This may be their finest hour yet and the arena’s and stadiums are surely beckoning but you just know even greater highs are yet to come, their masterpiece still being formed and fermented. For now though, ‘Inhale / Exhale’ may well be an early contender for album of the year.
- Fill The Void
- Man On Fire
- Wake Up (Sleepwalker)
- This Time I’m Ready
- I Am
- See You Again
- Lay It All On Me
- Find A Way
- Waiting For Me
‘Inhale/Exhale’ is available for pre-order worldwide now at earache.com/thosedamncrows on an wide array of formats including but not limited to: a collector’s edition bundle (which will house a burnt orange and black splatter vinyl with alternate fire carousel cover, exclusive to this edition); limited edition coloured vinyl with an exclusive 12-page booklet (clear with black smoke, purple, yellow), signed CD with exclusive 12-page booklet and alternate fire carousel cover; a cassette collection of the band’s full discography; USB; and digital download.
HMV carry two more exclusive formats: CD with alternate blue sky carousel cover and black vinyl with alternate fire carousel cover. A green vinyl format exclusive to indie stores is also available.
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