Review by Paul H Birch
A bass gnarls menacingly through the speakers, it’s being egged on by a bad tempered snare drum while a guitar fizzes like an unpinned Catherine Wheel ready to go off in several directions all at once. What’s primarily a two note riff pumps out Morse code commands as a voice calls out over a megaphone: “I’ll give you a message that I feel, alright, we know that’s a lie, but it suits you right!” Okay, I’ve been put in my place. I’ll sit here quietly and listen. With the volume turned up.
For around the next 50 minutes I’m introduced to Bad Sign who are so in-your-face at times that they could be sitting on my lap: their overriding sense of power is delivered with precision and passion as it moves from direct rock tunes of varying degrees, adds frightening time changes, epically scoped aural peaks, a sprinkling of post-punk new wave pop-savvy, and the feeling that this could be the beginnings of a beautiful relationship. De L’Amour indeed.
I’ve been tossed bands as diverse as Mastodon, Muse and Biffy Clyro as possible influences, and for all I know they’re all mutually true. But, that at times, De L’Amour is nothing less than the misbegotten grandchild of King Crimson’s Red; works for me, even if no one else can hear it.
Opening track ‘Cuba’ takes you by surprise and simply pummels you into submission, there’s more push and shove on the punkier anthems of ‘Reparation’ and ‘Affirmation’ whereas layered vocals plead over the fervent tumbling guitar notes that repeat through ‘Urgency’ before giving way to both a blistering solo and the menacing chorded drama of its ending.
Individually Joe Appleford sings and plays bass full on, Kev Miller snaps aggressively on drums and Jon Harris squeezes and strangles notes on distorted and effects laden guitar. Collectively they know how to mug the sound, allow Harris to go off into experimental expressionism and – as the crisp production emphasises – when to lay back too.
‘Tonight’ is like a late night brandy awaiting romance, it’s the song you’d most associate with the cool chic fashion cover adorning De L’Amour. Or rather laying it bare literally, for there does seem to be a theme pervading the work as a whole lyrically, one of a couple parting and then no longer together, it’s also why it’s worth listening to from beginning to end to feel that anguish and anger.
‘Vicissitude Part 2’ is more than just ‘Part 1’ played differently; it disperses into a kaleidoscope of sound, distorted effect guitar solos and thundering prog rock stop-start changes to worthy effect.
‘Perception Complete’ takes the guttural soul of ‘Tonight’ and dips into the epic grandeur of ‘Vicissitude’ to fragment in aural despair and conclude De L’Amour. Does everything work? Not quite. A few of the numbers sound too similar. As yet, the band is a raw emotional beast; playing ferociously comes naturally, if they can continue to experiment, stretch themselves further and develop their already impressive craft, Bad Sign will be more than just good.
8 out of 10
- If Ignorance is Bliss
- Native Belief
- Vicissitude Part 1
- Vicissitude Part 2
- Perception Complete