The Virginmarys - 'Northern Sun Sessions' Album Review
1. Look Out For My Brother
3 Eye for an Eye
4. For the Two of Us
5. Blind Lead the Blind
6. Get Me Back Home
7. Northern Sun
8. Wanna Be Free
10. Step Up
11. All Fall Down
I got turned onto The Virginmarys when they were just getting started with the likes of ‘bang bang bang’ and ‘portrait of red.’ I enjoyed the rawness in their approach and the intensity the band brought. ‘Kings of Conflict’ was an outstanding debut. Follow up record ‘Divides’ contains ‘Into Dust’ one of the most powerful songs to ever hit my soul. The video for ‘Motherless Land’ was also really moving with its storyline. It has really surprised me that they have not cracked into the mainstream as they have the songs and presentation to make people take notice. Their brand of Rock taps into multiple segments, and I would love to see them get a shot to open for someone like Pearl Jam. ‘Northern Sun Sessions’ does not have anything that hits me as hard as ‘Into Dust,’ but I didn’t expect that it would. This record is packed with 11 quality songs that add more strength to a diverse, outstanding discography.
The beginning of ‘Look Out For My Brother’ originally had me thinking that I had received the new Rival Sons album, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is The Virginmarys. This driving blues rocker has a nice jagged riff in places and turns up the intensity while staying relatively midtempo. Ally Dickaty has a unique timber to his voice that is immediately identifiable to me, and it works on numbers like this that have a tad of added Grunge as well as the fast rockers and ballads. Danny Dolan pounds the drums faster and faster for ‘SOS4UNI’ which carries a sense of urgency. Dickaty’s voice strains and bends as he sounds like he is fighting for survival in this relationship. The use of the backing vocals in the background is a really nice added touch. The playful sounding ‘Eye For An Eye’ bounces along next on a restrained verse before a well screamed chorus. The hook here doesn’t reach the same level as the first two songs for my ears, but I also can’t stop moving along to it. ‘For The Two Of Us’ slows the pace down but does not qualify as a ballad by a long shot. This is an incendiary rocker that features some great distortion heavy guitarwork, razorblade shredded vocals, and a clean guitar run that sounds amazing in-between it all.
‘Blind Lead The Blind’ features a gentle first verse before turning everything up to 11 and then settling somewhere between that for the next verse. It becomes even noisier as it goes which I think will actually serve it much better in the live setting. The last burst of guitar is really cool. Some nice slide guitar rings in ‘Get Me Back Home.’ The verse opens up for some nice vocals by Dickaty before exploding in the chorus. With its beautiful intro music ‘Northern Sun’ offers the band perhaps their best chance for mainstream success on this album in terms of a song that could crossover. The band again letting a song simmer with tension before reaching its boiling point. ‘Wanna Be Free’ features a great rhythm pattern with great drums by Dolan. This is not an immediate track by any means though as it feels chaotic and only reveals itself with some intense listens.
‘Flags’ starts with the great line ‘six years sober and still hungover.’ Dickaty channels back into the primitive raw emotional release that gave ‘Into Dust’ so much of its power. While this song doesn’t reach those incredible heights for me, it comes very close, and I love the transition to the chorus. ‘Step Up’ had me thinking of some early era Pearl Jam rage with a really good hook that could get played on satellite radio despite some profanity. ‘All Fall Down’ feels a little formulaic to me based on some of the other songs as it falls into a midtempo beat. The song ends very strong though as the build up sounds great even if it feels a bit like a task to get through the first couple minutes sometimes.
The back half of the album has been more addictive to me so far after several listens which is not unusual for me in terms of albums by the band. I tend to play one half for a long time and then rediscover the other half. The band’s ability to write well crafted songs that really lend themselves to repeated listens is probably something of a blessing and a curse. I can understand where someone might not really ‘get’ this record or band on first listen, but they become incredibly infectious with some listens. In another 10-15 years, I can see these guys still going strong and, much like Pearl Jam, feel comfortable pulling songs into their live shows from throughout their history. This album will continue to be a grower with me in the best sense of the world as it keeps pulling me back in for another listen when it ends.
‘Northern Sun Sessions’ is available for preorder now - https://www.thevirginmarys.com/pre-orders
Website - https://www.thevirginmarys.com/
Review - Gerald Stansbury