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1. Babylon

2. Hostage

3. Jericho

4. Holy Water

5. Mission Control

6. Bury Me Alive

7. Atmosphere

8. Thrown In The Gutter

9. Renegade

10. Chemicals

Swedish Alt Pop Rockers NORMANDIE are back with their third album, 'DARK & BEAUTIFUL SECRETS', released through Easy Life Records on the 19th of February.

The album begins extremely strong with the song ‘Babylon’, a track that oozes style. It starts with synth-like vocalizations, with a grittier guitar riff. There are peaks and troughs, particularly in the pre-chorus, which strips everything back to piano and vocals, before the chorus comes crashing back in. There’s a very unique sound to lead singer Philip Strand’s voice, and it complements the music perfectly, especially when the riffs provided by guitarist Håkan Almbladh follow the vocal melody.

Track three, ‘Jericho’, is one that stands out to me. It’s extremely catchy and will have you singing the main vocal hook for days afterwards. In the verses, bassist Lucas Englund and drummer Anton Franzon are given a chance to shine, before Almbladh comes crashing back in with a simple yet effective guitar riff in the chorus, which Englud follows perfectly. The vocal gymnastics from Strand in the final chorus are phenomenal, and this is probably my favourite track on the album.

One of the other standout tracks on the album is ‘Mission Control’, which begins in a synth laden style, before the group amp things up in the chorus with an extremely intricate guitar riff, which is continued on in the next verse as a synth line. The songwriting on this track is absolutely phenomenal, picking up the pace where it needs to and showing some brilliant instrumentation, including a brilliant bridge before the final verse. The lyrics, concerning how much Strand’s life and values have changed since he was a child, are also noteworthy.

‘Atmosphere’, a song about Strand’s fractious relationship with the internet, brings the pace down. It is masterfully done, showing a lot of vulnerability in the band. Strand’s voice is particularly beautiful on this track, his Swedish accent giving an interesting twist to the ballad. As slower songs on typically fast albums go, it is definitely one that stands out, especially since they keep it short and sweet with it being the shortest song on the album.

The pace is ramped up once more on ‘Thrown In The Gutter’, a bouncy, heavy track that is certain to get crowds moving. Strand’s vocals soar on the chorus, which gives way to thundering guitars and drums. Once again, the pacing within the song is perfect, knowing exactly when to slow it down to maximise the impact of the riff.

The album ends with ‘Chemicals’. It begins fairly slow, with some intricate drum work from Franzon. It has a Boston Manor-esque feel to it, which is no bad thing, but NORMANDIE definitely put their own unique spin on it. The entire track feels like an escalation, particularly with Strand’s scream at the end of the bridge, with an outro that rounds out the entire album perfectly.

NORMANDIE have consistently put out great releases, but this is without a doubt their best yet. They are constantly learning and evolving whilst staying true to themselves, and if they keep on going the way they are, I can very easily see them becoming an absolute juggernaut within the alternative scene.

Review - Gordon Rae


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