||SONS OF MERRICK
'Of English Execution'
Luke 'Loki' Milne
A quick blast through some of Sons Of Merrick's "newspaper clippings" from media coverage paints a promising picture of their music, and certainly served to spark my interest in reviewing the band's second studio album, 'Of English Execution', which was released on 14th July this year.
Even Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson throws his two cents into the well, commenting that: "These are severely mentally impaired and damaged people making this kind of music... however, it was rather good!"
Thankfully, reviews like this get my inner "wild child" postively buzzing with excitement and reaching for a chainsaw to wave around inside my head with and cause a little good ol' fashioned mayhem. As the drummer's four-count opens the album's first track, 'Volley'd and Thunder'd', the chainsaw revs up... and my inner child goes fucking mental.
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Instantly and without hesitation my poor, unsuspecting ears are assaulted with a wall of sound that seems to tower above and cut straight through me. Every riff, every vocal line and every beat is delivered with a haymaker punch that burns a smile on my face and certainly seems to announce the band's arrival with a healthy amount of force, metaphorically kicking the door down before planting a stick of dynamite in my palm to say thanks for buying the album.
Closing my eyes I can picture Sons Of Merrick feeling right at home on a dark, dingy stage beset with strippers and bottles of whiskey under a heavy veil of smoke – a perfect setting for music this energised with a dark, dirty and strangely seductive tone.
But enough of the weird metaphors and poetic lyricism, let's focus on the facts. Nick Berkshire and Dan Edwards provide a unified, satisfyingly jagged rasp in their vocals that add an eye-opening sense of realism to the dark and rebellious lyrics of each song, thick with a poetic sense of grit.
The guitar work (provided by Edwards) bursts through the mix with a heavy, thick sound in dark and groovy tracks like 'Bowels Of Britain', and Vincenzo Casamassa's bass bleeds through from underneath 'Dusky Parlour' with a defined and sharp edge, serving to carry the rhythm and compliment the punchy percussion provided by Mark Sharpless.
Each track within 'Of English Execution' settles at around five-six minutes (with the exception of 'Bag of Ants'), and this allows Sons Of Merrick to explore the boundaries of their varying influences, switching effortlessly between some almost punk-infused choruses, groove-inspired instrumental sections and a healthy dose of dirty, sexy southern rock.
Each track is a colourful and eventful journey that seems to turn corners at all the right moments and at just the right speed. The progression of each track never feels forced and fits in with the overall theme of the album; an honest middle-finger in the face of whatever the hell has Sons Of Merrick so musically pissed off at the time.
It's exciting, satisfying and (as I proved recently) a perfect soundtrack to drink to and cause a little mischief.
The final track featured in 'Of English Execution' stands defiantly against the standard set by rest of the album's material. 'The Rats Are Coming... The Werewolves Are Here' presents the listener with the "last orders at the bar" track, beginning with a slow and sexy southern rock instrumental which, in comparison to the previous exploits of the album, could be seen as "easy listening". It's not a bad thing in the slightest, adding yet another example of Sons Of Merrick's flexibility, and closing the album off as if to say "we know you're tired from all that headbanging... have a rest".
This relaxing interlude is fairly fleeting, however, as the second half of the track fires the engine back up again and delivers one final groovy and heavily distorted kick to round off the experience with a bang and leave the ears ringing.
Offering only eight tracks on the plate, 'Of English Execution' may seem a little short on paper to some, but the sheer diversity of sound and style within makes up for this and the length of each track sets the total runtime at just over 45 minutes, so it's barely noticeable overall.
I would have liked to have seen a little more exploration of the smoother side of Southern Rock (as displayed in the album's closing track), perhaps by way of some "bleeding heart" style lyrics atop some cool, bluesy guitar work... but maybe that's not Sons Of Merrick's idea of a good time, and I don't mind so much if that's the case.
To be honest, given the fact that I've been presented with an album already bursting at the seams with influence and flavour, I can probably forgive what is essentially a minor oversight simply because what is included in the album is (to put it bluntly) bloody marvellous.
It doesn't break the mould and it's not a genre-defining epic, but 'Of English Execution' stands firm against some of the more seasoned offerings of Rock, proving to be an excellent and well-rounded album that's well worth a listen and well-placed among some of the great names of the genre.
I'm eager to see Sons Of Merrick performing live after hearing the content of this album, which screams to me to let off some steam with some riotous moshing and headbanging, and for the band's second studio release it has certainly marked them as "one to watch".
Closing off this review, I find that I am left with just a single question in my mind; if 'Of English Execution' is an early demonstration of what SOM has to offer, what on earth can we expect to see in their next album?