The Downpatrick quartet are in the mood to party and have fun with their fourth studio album. It's an album that is very singular in vision and contains ten solid Rockin' nuggets with twists and turns that don't push the envelope to extremes. I wonder if they'll react to this when the time comes to record their next album, and they get a little more adventurous?
Let's not get distracted with speculation; we're here to know about 'New Horizon' right here, right now. With Toby Jepson at the production helm fresh from his duties with bands The Virginmarys, Fastway and others and his co-production activity on the Saxon album 'Call To Arms' in 2011, he's captured the band in fine form.
Complimented by this crisp and clear sound, 'New Horizon' overall flows with a very similar vibe that occupies their previous album 'Revival'.
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Mike Fraser, the highly respected producer, engineer and mixer who is associated with AC/DC and Metallica amongst so many others, mixed the album whilst the cover artwork is thanks to the late artist Storm Thorgerson. So as you can see, there are big names involved in this album which tells those who are paying attention that these guys really are striving for the best that they have. What about the music?
The title track fades in and is pure unadulterated top quality Hard Rock, well structured and well delivered. Some funky guitar introduces 'Leave With Nothin'' which encapsulates the distinctive tour de force that is The Answer. This brings us to the first single from the album, 'Spectacular', with its driving riffs and punchy energy.
The swirling lyrical refrain 'We Could Be Spectacular' rotates like helicopter blades in the head after you've been exposed on several occasions, although our words are nothing but empty chambers apparently.
'Speak Now' slows things down initially by letting us hear their tender side before cranking the guitars briefly for the chorus. "Its days like these that I'm forever on my knees", cries lead vocalist Cormac Neeson. The ride continues until we are confronted by a stammering rock n' roll style riff that launches 'Somebody Else' which evolves into what fans would expect, and that's a solid song.
There are no bad songs here, just some are better than others. 'New Horizon' contains a familiar swagger and treads on a path that is predictable and trusted, although it is done with a sense of confidence in their own identity.
The jarring riff that starts 'Concrete' has hints of Rage Against The Machine about it as it lunges and looms ominously before settling into more conventional territory that fans would recognise. With a tone of melancholy reflection 'Call Yourself A Friend' builds and proves to be a triumphant moment within their output. Listen out for that change in tempo as they head out of the gates; sublime.
'Baby Kill Me' contains a tasty groove and this is then topped by the following song 'Burn You Down', which has an extra ingredient of being an anthem. You can't beat a sing-a-long chorus can you? (That's rhetorical).
The final track 'Scream A Louder Love' does a great job of finishing 'New Horizon' and somehow despite this feeling like an effortless collection of good quality Hard Rock, I suspect that a lot of hard work and love has gone in to crafting each of the ten songs. In other words they make it look easy.
If you were hoping for an album that reflected the title of this album, then you'll be sorely disappointed. There aren't really any new horizons being explored here, but what you will receive is solid and well executed Hard Rock.
Here is a collection of short songs that don't really dwell on excess, and that's not a bad thing. As The Answer will tell you, "ain't got a heart if it ain't got a soul", and this thankfully has both in abundance.
Cormac Neeson - Vocals
Paul Mahon - Guitar
Michael Waters - Bass
James Heatley – Drums
1. New Horizon
2. Leave With Nothin'
4. Speak Now
5. Somebody Else
7. Call Yourself A Friend
8. Baby Kill Me
9. Burn You Down
10. Scream A Louder Love