New Model Army – From Here review

Postcards from the edge  9/10

As they approach their 40th birthday, post punk, rock radicals New Model Army release their fifteenth studio album! In 1984 Muriel Gray (a TV pop and fashion presenter) referred to them as “the ugliest band in rock and roll”, immediately both horrifying and intriguing me. I watched dumbfounded. It was raw and passionate with a bass that sounded like machine gun fire. This was Christian Militia. Sadly Vengeance was deemed inappropriate with its chorus of

I believe in justice
I believe in vengeance
I believe in getting the bastard

Instead I was confronted with the poetic, powerful and sadly still too true verse containing

There’s a witch hunt coming, born out of all the American fears
There’s a new purge coming, an inquisition for all of us here
Hold onto your sanity as best you can
While some Hitler claims to speak for the Son of Man

Their uncompromising stance and astute social commentary ‘may’ have been what initially denied the band access to the USA (the stated reason, was ‘no artistic merit’) but the unprecedented success of their third studio  album The Ghost of Cain (featuring the iconic Joolz Denby painted leather jacket that spawned replica’s globally) granted them entry. Despite the provocative track 51st State

From their pared back, punk flavoured Northern Soul, to the introduction of hard-folkier aspects (which were dropped before they became commercial) through to straight up metal. New Model Army have certainly carved their own niche.

While Winter (2016) raged against the coming darkness and continued with the more tribal aspects explored in Between Dog and Wolf (2013) and Between Wine and Blood (2014), From Here is altogether more mellow.

Apparently written in two months and recorded in nine days at Ocean Sound Recordings on the tiny Norwegian island of Giske, it is an atmospheric and haunting piece of work. It has been stated that

‘We all have different lives and different tastes in many things (including music). One thing we have in common is the love of bleak, open, cold, rugged landscapes – water, snow and rock. So this was the perfect place for us to create something collectively – at all times while we were working, we could see through the windows the sky, the sea and the melting snow on the mountains, all in a constant state of change. No environment has had such an effect on the band’s music since we discovered the Sawmill Studios in Cornwall and created Hex, Thunder & Consolation and Impurity there thirty years ago. The record belongs to a very special place and also a particular time – what is happening in the world now and where we are as a band and as people.’

Passing Through is a fairly gentle opener, with a rhythmical late night train feel. Before taking on a more progressive lean, which is somewhat harder and poignant. The snappy drum patterns cut through with a sense of foreboding. Our journey continues with the more upbeat Never Arriving. Upbeat yet pensive, melancholic musings that seem almost confessional,  with a slow build of primal drumming and a driving bass. This is sure to hit even greater euphoric highs in a live environment.

.. the safest place that I know Is here between departing and arriving – but never arriving

The Weather it’s what unifies us as a nation right? The lack of comprehension that the witnessed changes, could be influenced by humanities loss of a connection with the planet. Almost orchestral in its delivery, I eagerly anticipate further renditions. End Of Days was the first album release, melodic and somewhat whimsical in its subtlety, with the sublime artwork of Joolz (for me an intrinsic aspect of my love for NMA) and you can check it out here

Great Disguise is a far more experimental track, yet unmistakably New Model Army. The passionate rasping of Justin Sullivan takes  on a haunting story-telling style over the back-drop of primal percussion. There is a warmth, and a cyclical feel to the melody Conversation contrary to the subject matter. The cheeriest number is the acoustically driven Where I Am which seems to emanate calm and contentment. It is unexpected, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Hard Way takes us back to more familiar territory, well, it’s a more country tinged folky number with a disconcerting air and a pervasive hint of danger in its clipped meanderings and uplifting harmonies. Soon there will be nothing to deny.

Watch and Learn
is a delightful amalgamation of the traditional NMA musical and lyrical aspects with a dark and modern spin. Maps with its metered strings building atmospherically, lulls as it sets sail for distant shores. Setting Sun picks up the pace for a spaghetti western imbued, psychedelic voyage in two movements. Closing with the title track From Here, an eight minute epic to leave the listener with a sense of absolution. Piano, gently lapping waves, a grumbling rhythmical pulse with the diction of Sullivan, channeling The Doors.   Repeat after me, I am the master of nothing’.

New Model Army From Here is out now and can be purchased here

  1. Passing Through
  2. Never Arriving
  3. The Weather
  4. End Of Days
  5. Great Disguise
  6. Conversation
  7. Where I Am
  8. Hard Way
  9. Watch and Learn
  10. Maps
  11. Setting Sun
  12. From Here

Catch the incomparable New Model Army on the road

24 Aug Putting The Fast In Belfast 3 (NI)
01 Sep Berlin (DE) (JS SOLO)
07 Sep Angeliter Open-Air (DE)
14 Sep Visor Festival (ES)
08 Oct Southampton (UK)
09 Oct Paris (FR)
10 Oct Dortmund (DE) (SOLD OUT)
11 Oct Hamburg (DE) (SOLD OUT)
12 Oct Berlin (DE)
13 Oct Poznan (PL)
15 Oct Gdynia (PL)
16 Oct Warsaw (PL)
17 Oct Wrocław (PL)
18 Oct Krakow (PL)
19 Oct Budapest (HU)
20 Oct Vienna (AT)
22 Oct Winterthur (CH)
23 Oct Fribourg (CH)
24 Oct Freiburg (DE)
25 Oct Münich (DE)
26 Oct Stuttgart (DE)
27 Oct Nurnburg (DE)
29 Oct Dresden (DE)
30 Oct Frankfurt (DE)
31 Oct Losheim (DE)
01 Nov Rijkovorsel (BE) (SOLD OUT)
02 Nov Strasbourg (FR)
13 Nov Bristol (UK)
14 Nov London (UK)
15 Nov Cambridge (UK)
16 Nov Leeds (UK)
17 Nov Cardiff (UK)
19 Nov Chester (UK)
20 Nov Newcastle (UK)
21 Nov Edinburgh (UK)
22 Nov Manchester (UK)
23 Nov Birmingham (UK)
30 Nov Istanbul (TR)

12 Dec Brighton (UK)
13 Dec Amsterdam (NL)
14 Dec Köln (DE)
21 Dec Nottingham (UK)

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