Between Wine & Blood by New Model Army

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Less than a year since their excellent last album, “Between Dog & Wolf”, Justin Sullivan (AKA Slade the Leveller) and his band of outlaws – New Model Army – are back with a new release that comprises of a six track, 30 minute mini-album of new material and a second disc that is a 50 minute live album taken from shows in London, Nottingham, Cambridge, Cologne and Amsterdam last year.

The first disc’s songs are in a similar style to that 2013 release and are driven again by Sullivan’s desire to seek justice and revenge in a wounded and dangerous world. Once again the sound is dominated by tribal drums and thundering bass and the new songs kick off with a rumble of bass that leads us into the accusatory “According to You” where Sullivan sings “according to you there isn’t anything left to believe in” and there’s tales aplenty of betrayal, sacrifice, blood, battles and justice. As always Justin sings with full throated passion and the band roar on behind him. The song is illuminated by feelings of terror and impending doom. This feeling spills over into the following “Angry Planet” that spits out an apocalyptic message backed by frantic guitars and jittering drums as Justin sings of vengeful Gods as “the continents collide.” Its fast and furious stuff that twists through a weird acoustic interlude that will sound wonderful when it finds it’s way into their live set. “Devil’s Bargain” begins with yet more tribal style drumming and a more hushed vocal as Justin bemoans the weakness of man and compromises we all have to make. It’s less frantic than the preceding tunes but still carries a feeling of looming disaster as the strings create a backdrop of menace and darkness. “Guessing” (streaming below) turns things up again and we have devils stalking the land as the drums rumble and the guitars thrash and wail. “Happy to Be Here” begins with the sound of the sea washing on to the shore with some delicate surf style guitar and a less frantic delivery from Justin. At times the atmospherics here recall The Doors “Rider’s on the Storm” though we still get the NMA staples of storms, winter and much thunder. So, that’s the new tracks, and whilst not radically different to the last album they still have an abundance of passion, enthusiasm and sheer verve.

The live disc is a nice bonus that features eleven of the tracks from the “Between Wine & Blood” album delivered with much aplomb and fiery sermonising. They aren’t radical departures from their studio incarnations but are certainly worth having with particularly thundering versions of “Stormclouds”, “Seven Times”, their anthem to the deceased motor bike ace “Knievel” with the immortal refrain “did they come to see a man fly or watch him fall?”, and the atmospheric “Horsemen” which mainly consists of thundering drums and a chanted drone vocal of “on the far horizon, they’re saddling up the horses” that is both dark and nightmarish and seems to fit our modern disaster strewn world perfectly.

This is an excellent stop-gap release and it’s nice to see such strong new material so soon after the last album which was, for me, one of the best of 2013. The album is out on 8th September. Get out there and buy it.

Reviewer: Greg Johnson

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