Coming off their successful Howl EP, the Southern Depression-era rockers shed some experimental meanderings for consistently dark and dirty rock and roll. While the album, Orthodox, leans on three of four tracks from their EP last year, there is plenty of new material that sets the band apart.
As an album, Orthodox splits itself between beautifully composed brooders that give singer/songwriter Kyle Nicolaides a stage to deliver his signature sorrowfulness and lively rockers that lift the band out of the murk.
Sure, there is some reliance on iconic sounds that will ring with an unapologetic familiarity but Nicolaides' lyrical work adds a freshness to the band's unmistakably vintage flair.
Orthodox glorifies the retread of refreshingly Seventies rock.
In a different decade, Beware The Darkness might have found its musical sweet spot between the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It's in these convincing compositions that Nicolaides and his bandmates — Daniel Curcio (bass) and Tony Cupito (drums) — effortlessly lay down easily accessible rock and roll.
But what makes the band a bit more interesting than a throwback band is the lyrics. Nicolaides turns to a long list of muses that include Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, and David Foster Wallace. It's from such deeply talented inspirations that he can create some memorable and heady melodies to wrestle with life and death.
The atmospheric rocker Ghost Town is an end-of-life tune about a weary and disconnected drifter hanging onto his last thread. There is an odd acceptance for whatever might come next, a quiet and unafraid Western-tinged hymn that dares death to take him. At the end, the dare erupts into a plea.
Ghost Town is the third track, following Sweet Girl and the album opener that has proven to be the biggest success for the trio. There is no question why it is the most referenced track in the band's arsenal; Howl is definitively primal (and tightened up on the album). Sweet Girl, on the other hand, is the most fun, albeit the most shallow track. It's a feel-good pine-away rock song about a girl.
In terms of rockers, along with Howl, check out the bonus track Be My Exorcist. The additional track reinforces that the band can rock as hard as it wants. It alone is worth purchasing the album. Here's a live fan captured piece of it.
There are several more standout tracks on Orthodox, with some of the best being slowed down and contemplative. These include the lazy ebb and flow of Amen Amen, the relaxed and melodic Morning Tea, and the blues-infused Hummingbird. All Who Remain is also worth a listen. It's about losing your favorite person on the planet. It's also the one of the more pop-oriented pieces on the album.
The other, End Of The World, was originally called Culture Bomb on the EP. Instead of sticking the track with its original post-modern paranoia intent, the band plugged in the most memorable lyric line. While I like the song better than my counterpart who reviewed the EP last year, it hints at the band's risk of becoming too theatrical, especially around its keyboard-reliant compositions.
Time will tell if this will happen or not. While the band would be better served with more urgent guitar-driven rockers, they have reportedly been looking for a keyboardist as a potential fourth member.
Orthodox By Beware The Darkness Shreds 6.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
The album easily elevates the band, adding consistently to Beware The Darkness than their EP debut while proving there is more under the hood than loss and loneliness. Additional kudos to executive producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, Nine Inch Nails) and Greg Gordon, who shares the producer credit with Nicolaides.
Orthodox by Beware The Darkness is a nicely comped rock retread with some lyrical twists and refreshed arrangements. You can find the album on Amazon. The vinyl LP can be ordered from Barnes & Noble or you can download it from iTunes. Keep tabs on their tour schedule via Facebook.