1. Liquid Reign
2. Sweet Rider 5
3. Pedal Pusher
4. Darker Days
6. Ordinary Way
7. Hips Don’t Shake
8. Cruise Control
9. So Good
10. Their Game
11. Feels (So Sad)
'Darker Days Are Here to Stay' is the much anticipated debut album from Alt Rockers, Dark Stares. The band from St Albans, Hertfordshire, formed in 2009, and comprise of brothers Miles Kristian Howell (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Taylor Howell (drums, additional guitar, backing vocals), Brett Harland Howell (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Harry Collins (lead guitar, backing vocals). Up to now they have released 3 EPS, 'Tell Your Friends' (2012), 'Octopon' (2013) and 'Soul Contract' (2014) and have opened sold-out shows for Enter Shikari and The Darkness, as well as releasing a slew of music videos. There have been comparisons with Muse and Queens Of The Stone Age, Muse and Royal Blood. I detected some late Beatles, and T Rex vibes in the album, but if Dark Stares sound like some of them, they sound like all of them as they have their own complex sound.
If you are a fan of Dark Stares the album may seem familiar, and that is because the album includes four out of the 6 tracks on there 'Soul Contract' EP. In fact for added familiarity the album opens with the same opener as the previous EP, 'Liquid Reign'. Whilst a lot of albums open with a bang, this one doesn't, instead it draws you in with a hypnotic psychedelic groove. The bass plods along with the crisp clear riffs and melody. The low fi vocal drawls lazily along, making this a catchy opener. I assume that as it worked for the EP, it was thought it would work for the album. I think it does.
The next two tracks, 'Sweet Rider 5' and 'Pedal Pusher' have been released as taster singles. 'Sweet Rider 5' has a heavier bass, but the hypnotic beat and immersive low fi is still there. 'Pedal Pusher' on the other hand is a far lighter track with crisp guitar chords and a dominant snare. It does not lose the whole ethereal feel, but gives it a whole more clarity and softness, which is complimented with the clearer vocal. I think that when bands are introducing themselves, they should release contrasting singles to show their depth. Dark Stares have done this.
The album track 'Darker Days' is next up. The snare is replaced with the bass drum and the riffs are again a lot heavier, and fuzzy. This track, whilst having a low fi vibe seems to have many layers. If the previous track made you feel like you were floating, this one gives you the impression of sinking.
The next two tracks, are again from the EP, 'Soul Contract'. 'Animal', changes the temperature again, with a far warmer ambiance. It drifts on a sonic psychedelic groove, interspersed with Rock guitar and symbols. It ends with reverb, leading into 'Ordinary Way'. This is a very familiar song which breaks the trance. It is familiar because it follows a more classic Alt Rock formulae. Its is no less immersive it is just more anthemic. With distinctive guitar hooks, crashing symbols and powerful, emotional vocals, this has the feel of a stadium pleaser, and for me is the stand out track on the album.
Given the start of album with fuzzy vocals and multi layers, 'Hips Don't Shake', is a completely different track. It is a song of two parts, starting with a low crisp vocal accompanied by a lone guitar. There is a pause almost as if the track has stopped and then the main track bursts into life. This is a more classic Rock sound with a catchy vocal 'If her hips don't shake, then her lips can wait'. A repetitive drum beat drives the track with an equally repetitive guitar riff. I loved this track it lightened the mood, and didn't seem to take itself seriously.
By now you will have realised that the album alternates between dark and light, airy and heavy. 'Cruise Control', the last of the previously released track followed this pattern. A gloriously oppressive guitar riff, which i detected a little T Rex influence hidden in it, opens the number, heavy drums and symbols added to the roar. The track has a whole scuzzy, fuzzy feel to it with multiple layers assaulting the senses. In short it was a fantastic wall of sound, with a plaintiff vocal, which ended on the obligatory distortion and reverb.
'In So Good' the vocal starts clear with a bassy melody behind it. It is a real mix of a track which seems to continually evolve into something different, with at one stage and almost 80's electronica keyboard.
Given the complexity of the previous track the next track, 'Their Game', you've guessed it, is a light clear simple song. Light guitar riffs, sweet drum roles and a clear simple vocal, make this an easy to listen to track. Sometimes a fuzzy low fi production is used to hide shortcomings from the vocalist. It is obvious from this track that Miles Kristian has a great voice with depth and versatility.
The Album closes with 'Feels (So Sad)', and closes, like it opened with an immersive ebb and flow. The vocal is low and low fi, a slow track that builds, with layers rolling over like a dark mist. A prominent drum beat cuts through the almost organic sound.
Dark Stares have released a complex album, with light and shade, that is uplifting and oppressive, which is simple and complex. This is a grower, and on first listen the alternating vibe is confusing, but stick with it. The melodies hit you in multi-layered waves, the vocals are clever. It is sometimes Low Fi and sometimes has the clarity of a bell. This is a very impressive debut album, which I think proves that after several years on the scene, Dark Stares are confident with their ability to create good inventive music.
'Darker Days Are Here To Stay' will be released on May 11th.
Website - www.darkstares.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/DarkStares/
Review - Tony Creek