UNKNOWN REFUGE // FROM THE DARKNESS // ALBUM REVIEW
The debut album from this Bolton-based 4 piece is impressive, the music captivating and precise. Well worth the 4 years it took to complete and with the band being so young it is mind-blowing to think of the potential for future music from them.
A dark and atmospheric opening of piano leads the album ‘From the Darkness’ into the guitar crunching rock of ‘To the Light.’ This track hints at a hero embarking on a journey. Uncertain about the gritty path ahead but garnering determination from the support and encouragement of others. The lead guitar work in this song is unexpectedly impactful, managing to evoke not only confusion and courageous passion alongside the great lyrics and vocal tones but midway through, picks up a musical narration of all of the sadness, struggle and fear that comes with being set free into the world. It’s nice to have a story unfold.
‘Kicked to the Floor’ has an air of warning about it. There are fast echoey guitars and a steady thudding and thumping power of drums to round up the fight within you. Words flow with intriguing melody and the catchy chorus repetition assertively pummels the lyrics home. If you want fast, then ‘Battle Hymn’ is where it’s at with its kicking crescendos of drums and guitars. This song starts with instrumentals for a full minute and when the vocals come in, they work like another instrument, it’s slick. There is a really good balance of instrumental and vocal parts throughout this album – no competing just complimenting.
‘Shadows’ offers a different vibe. Can music shimmer? The intro to this track really feels that way until the drums provide a much fiercer edge and around the 40 second mark a chunky tasting riff is thrown in alongside some smooth guitar squeals. This song definitely doesn’t hide in the shadows, the vocals are more casually relaxed but strong; facing shadows perhaps but definitely not hiding in them. The strumming, tuneful, booming, cymbal-laden sucker punch of ‘Palace Walls’ describes perfectly just the sort of bad place/hole we can all find ourselves imprisoned in at times. The deliciously sandwiched chorus “Once inside you won’t get out, no-one hears you when you shout” will get your blood pumping and if not, the heart racing beats and guitar from 3:08 should do it.
‘Wall of Lies’ has a modern feel but there’s no sweet dreams here; someone is being called out. Rose tinted pictures of life aren’t welcomed and fear will always show behind the mask. Drum beats are skilfully scattered and it’s a simple tune but the repetitions, timings and switching of styles make it all incredibly catchy. Another ripping guitar solo and a strong message is hidden within ‘If The Gods Be Good.’ What with all of life’s hell-fire, fate depends on fortune – anything can happen if we leave it all to chance – there’s a punchy reminder in the line “the Gods ain’t known for being kind” quick! Take the reins! Interestingly, the song measures 3:13; just maybe the ascended masters are around? ‘I’m Not A Bad Guy’ (but I wouldn’t cry if you died) is raging hatred, delivered mockingly. It’s a harsh, fast track that gets even faster and may be the shortest on the album (apart from the intro) but it’s also the angriest.
Final track ‘Journey’ features a striking beginning from guitars and drums that just swoop in. The song sets the scene that our hero is back in the saddle and has evolved by facing and learning from lessons encountered on the journey so far. Charging forward, there is no return to simpler times and growth may be painful and uncertain but it is ultimately worth it. The journey may be scary but with this music as your weapon it’s much more exciting.
Unknown Refuge are on to something with this Rock formula, both classic and contemporary in unison. You’ll want to listen to this album straight over again. From The Darkness is OUT 26th March 2021.