Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Virginmarys Rock The King Of Conflict

We stumbled into the Virginmarys three years and two EPs ago. The trio from Macclesfield, United Kingdom, were great and getting better. They still are, with two distinctions.

People have actually heard of them. They have a complete album in circulation. All their hard work on the road, where they write much of their music, has continually paid off. With every new track, there is always something new to discover about the band. 

Usually it comes from what they choose to to infuse into their music. Sometimes it is grunge, with all its wicked sparseness. Sometimes it is the honesty of British rock celebrated in the 1970s. And sometimes it is the lively spikiness of punk, a little rougher than anyone expected from such a seasoned rock band.

The Virginmarys are a King Of Conflict. 

Maybe that is why the aptly titled release King Of Conflict, the sophomore album that eclipses their self-titled album and gives them back some of their best material — both new and reinvented from previous EPs. There is something renewed and reinforced this time around and rockers will love it. 

Even the fiery lead track, Dead Man's Shoes, which pays homage to unpretentious stylings of straight-up rock as only the blues-fed Ally Dickaty can play it, packs an old school style with some modern wrappings, which comes across loud in clear with every guitar solo.

What makes the recent successes of Dickaty and bandmates Matt Rose (bass, vocals) and Danny Dolan (drums) even more satiable is how often they've come close before. There have been plenty of people singing their praises over the past three years and now all of it seems to be paying off.

Part of me believed two years ago, and maybe more so today, that the real uptick in interest had to do with the band breaking away from vintage rock exclusively and picking up more energy that plays well to Dickaty's natural roughness. It's the very reason Just A Ride scored so highly when it was first released as the lead off for their EP in 2011. 

On the album, Just A Ride feels only slightly more smoothed out than the earlier rendition but with no less bite. It fits perfectly behind the ultimately raw rocker Portrait Of Red, where Dickaty exchanges  smooth vintage rock and punk roughness in big, heavy vocal heaves and blasts of climatic guitar, bass, and drums. 

Expect more power and ample carelessness when they play live. Sometimes they play a song like Bang, Bang, Bang with the swagger of vintage rock. Other times Dickaty can pick it up as a stunning acoustical. Or, if the band is feeling especially aggressive, it could sound like this live version.

It's precisely this level of versatility and veracity that makes the Virginmarys unpredictable and enjoyable. Even on the album, King Of Conflict delivers three of its 15 tracks as stripped down versions, including Bang, Bang, Bang and Just A Ride. Stripped down in this case generally means a quieter demo-like acoustical version with only some backing melody to give some additional structure.

Those three tracks are worth a listen, especially if you are ready for something closer to a ballad after listening to 12 brilliantly played power songs. With the exception of Out Of Mind, the album rocks hard from start to finish, pushing Virginmarys harder than they've ever pushed themselves before. When you listen to the album, give the less played Ends Don't Mend, My Little Girl, and Lost Weekend a shot.

Virginmarys Nail King Of Conflict To 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There is no question about it. King Of Conflict is the album we wanted to hear immediately following Just A Ride in 2011. King Of Conflict bridges elements of every rock and roll genre (including punk and metal) and somehow manages to tame some carefully crafted but always ferocious gold. 

King of Conflict [+digital booklet] by the Virginmarys can be found on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes or order the CD from Barnes & Noble. The band is currently on tour in the United Kingdom with plans to land in the United States this May. Check out the tour schedule on Facebook.
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