KScope – [Release date 15.9.14]
Bruce Soord must have felt both pretty chuffed and stressed in equal measure the moment he realised the success achieved by The Pineapple Thief’s 2012 opus “All The Wars” – pleased because this album was the perfect culmination of a long and arduous musical journey that started in Somerset back in 1999 and perhaps concerned because it would not be long before he and his band would be asked to repeat, if not better, said exercise.
Working on the side project Wisdom Of Crowds and offering his services to label mates Katatonia on their “Dethroned & Unplugged” European tour seems to have really helped Soord charge his batteries and reassess his musical goals: “Magnolia”, the Thief’s latest studio offering, is not only a totally different musical beast than its predecessor but also one heck of an album!
Confident in his ability to present the listener with simple but memorable melodic themes, whether on guitar or vocal duties, Soord has decided not to spend his energies writing the next fifteen-minute opus that his old-school fans would most likely expect and hope for, but instead focus on creating shorts songs with direct and strong emotional appeal.
Taking full advantage of the amazing skills of bassist-extraordinaire Jon Sykes, whose individual performances have contributed many highlights to this album, and offering breathtaking supporting orchestral/string arrangements to these twelve compositions, Soord has created a varied and finely balanced album that will appeal to the alternative Rock fan as strongly as it will to the supporters of bands like Anathema and Radiohead which is, of course, no mean feat.
Bursting with energy and founded upon a simple but killer riff, “Simple As That” perfectly paves the way for “Alone At Sea”, a five and a half minute track whose repetitive guitar harmonies, killer bass line and outstanding refrain marks it as the absolute highlight of the album.
Reaching the peak at such an early stage is not a problem for this album as both the Anathema-sounding “Don’t Tell Me” and vocally-driven same-titled “Magnolia” keep the album’s standards intact while the atmosphere-laden follow-up “Season’s Past” portray Soord as a musician in possession of unique compositional skills.
More similarities with the mighty Anathema can be found in songs like “Coming Home” and “The One You Left To Die”, while the temperature is immediately raised the moment the heavy-riffed “Breathe” first makes its presence felt.
Being a real sucker for a quality piano tune and an emotionally-charged vocal melody, I couldn’t help but fall for both “From Me” and “A Loneliness”, while appreciating in the process the killer bass line featured in the Dream Theater influenced “Sense Of Fear”.
The album concludes with another melody-driven quality piece entitled “Bond”, a song whose appeal was instantaneous but which I really came to understand and appreciate after listening a few times to the album.
Having been hooked on “All The Wars” upon its release, I was both curious and anxious to see what Soord had in store for us with this follow-up and felt both pleased and relieved upon realising the extent to which “Magnolia” has managed to outshine its fairly successful predecessor.
Featuring material of outstanding quality and not a ‘filler’ in sight, the Thief’s tenth studio album is a strong musical statement made by a band at the very top of its game – an album that deserves the highest possible rating and which will definitely feature in my “album of the year” list for 2014. A truly beautiful album!
Rating: ***** (5.0/5.0)
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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