by James Fleming
New Model Army take to the stage for the first time. The dregs of punk are still on the airwaves and screens of a Britain betwixt and between.
Punk is a fashion statement, a commercialised “alternative.” What Rotten once stood for has vanished in a fast burn of safety pins, mohawks and infected wounds. They have learned how to sell individuality.
Post-punk offers light with its own darkness. A refreshing, invigorating and individual movement amongst the saccharine new wave of The Vapors and the beginnings of heavy metal’s iron grip.
Both of those genres have descended into parody and farce. Recognised for what they are; an unfortunate fad of money-grabbing and dodgy fashion choices. Indeed, heavy metal has grown to, in many cases, adopt its unfortunate alter-ego of “schlock rock.”
New Model Army have survived all of this. They have crossed time and generations to herald the coming of Winter.
Armed with a batch of songs that prove that the past generations still have it, NMA have unleashed a record of immense power upon the world.
No scrappy indie-fiddlings here. Just, immensity. From the rhythm section’s thundering toms and rolling thunder bass to the vocals commanding presence, Winter reminds us that there are survivors among the wreckage.
Opening track, The Beginning, is a slow burn. It lays a foundation and erects a fortress upon it; building and building to a highpoint that, despite its darkness, brings a sense of joyful celebration. If only sonically.
Winter is an undoubtedly dark record. But not relentlessly so, and never does it descend into mere glumness.
And it’s that power that keeps Winter’s head above the icy water. It isn’t power like on, say, Swans’ Filth or Cop, a terrible, frightening power. This is the sound of a band raising two fingers to shimmering indie-pop and the bullshit notion that pure darkness is more “authentic.”
For, the album’s greatest strength is in how uplifting it is. Not a cheesy, Facebook post uplifting, more of a rising.
A rising of individuals. Winter is a statement from a band that revels in its individuality. Each song as its own identity, yet, they come together in a wondrous way to form a cohesive whole. They share similarities; a rhythm section that sets the hairs on your arms a-standing, perfectly complimentary guitar work and a voice of great ability. Rotten’s message didn’t fall on deaf ears after all.
New Model Army are clearly a band of individuals who work well together. That much is evident from the quality of Winter’s 13 songs. Born Feral and Devil’s, pounding toms are a marked contrast with the acoustic guitar-led Die Trying. Proving that NMA are far from a one trick pony. This is rock. But, it’s devoid of any of the clichés of RAWK; plodding root-note bass, crashing cymbals, macho-man guitar and cringe-inducing lyrics. Needless to say, Winter is better for what it lacks; clichés.
While the angry young men of the present have not disappeared, as many seem to think, very few of them sound as good as this. Why would you want to rid the world of the old generation when they can still teach us so much? Not just what’s wrong, but what’s right as well.