Animal Farm Records
This is a very original and encouraging debut album from Scottish borders-based quartet The Manic Shine. The ten tracks here each have it all going on. The material could broadly be described metal-tickled prog rock, with a few swift art house moves chucked in for good measure.
That’s not to say that such deliberate genre dabbling is always an easy listen. Album opener ‘Tin Crown Kings’ suffers a little from trying to unleash every chop, trick and time change in the book. ‘Weightless’, too. It can sound a bit like Saga’s stage-set used to look in the early 80’s: an aural circus. But when the band’s obvious technical competence is matched with a confident arrangement, like on ‘Avarice’ and ‘Scattershot’, the result is positively promising.
The boys can certainly play. Ozzie Rodgers and Orren Karp weave some often hard-driven guitar riffs throughout the album – ‘Use Your Horizon’, for instance – and angular solos and tempo changes – such as ‘(S)Words’. ‘Leatherface’ is a bass-propelled thing (step forward ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson) with some cute, edgy samples and guitar work to break up the patterns.
Ozzie Rodgers has a fine enough rock voice, but against the often complex music it can come up a bit lightweight. Sometimes a bit more balls, or at least some character, might work better. ‘Leatherface’ again is a perfect example. Parts of ‘Weightless’ are the closest Ozzie comes to a wig out. Then again, the album’s quiet-ish track, ‘Libra’, benefits from his feathery delivery. And there’s a great, soaring guitar piece to lift this track too. One of the best songs on the album.
Perhaps there are no killer tracks here. No murderous hooks or insistent melodies that you catch yourself humming down Sainsbury’s veg isle. All the same, there are some great passages in many of the compositions and this is a good debut. When they put it all together they could be a force to be reckoned with. ***
Review by Dave Atkinson
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