When the opening track ‘Protection’ starts you’ll recognise Danny McNamara’s voice immediately. Soon though, an electronic beat kicks in, and you’d be forgiven if you didn’t realise this was Embrace. The chorus has the sort of singalong element you’d expect, but that is where the similarity ends. The grandiose, orchestral, widescreen Embrace of the past seem to be left there; in the past.
The next track, ‘In The End’ starts with much guitar and a fantastic bass sound, which clicks and growls along aplenty. It is here that the progression from the sound of previous album 2006’s This New Day sounds more obvious. By the time first single, ‘Refugees’ comes along the “newer” sound is back and it suits them.
‘Refugees’ is a great single. It has dual vocals from the brothers McNamara, and a huge, anthemic feel to it. Yet, it has a sample-led electronic feel to it in lieu of the orchestral feel of the past. And this is what is most important about this new album; a band who have already had one comeback, have pulled it off once again. This is one (originating in the) 90s band who aren’t interested in being a nostalgia act. There has been a long wait since the last album but what you get is not a facsimile of where they stopped.
When I saw them live in King Tuts in February I felt they sounded a little rusty, and some of the new tracks suffered from a poor vocal. On record the vocals are sounding superb, including Richard noticeably stepping up to the mic more than ever. Nowhere is this more clear than in current single ‘Follow Me Home’. With dual vocals throughout and a soaring chorus, this is a slice of Embrace at their strongest.
‘Quarters’ sounds more Ellie Goulding than a traditional guitar-band, and all the better for it. It’s probably my current favourite track and deserves to be widely heard; a future single if there is any justice. With much electronica going on in the likes of ‘Self Attack Mechanism’ you could be fooled into thinking I am claiming this is an electronic album; we aren’t talking Chvrches. But with the fantastic growling bass, electronic beats and wash of sample sounds before the traditional guitar and vocal layered on top the result is impressive.
Coming in at ten tracks, the album doesn’t over-stay its welcome and leaves you wanting to hear more. Finishing with a sublime 6-minute track ‘A Thief On My Island’ we get a retrospective of all the styles that came in the 40 minutes before by starting slow and building up to a perfect groove before the chorus. It is here I really must commend Steve Firth – the bass work throughout this album is fantastic. At the 4-minute mark the song suddenly takes a turn towards the electronica you’ve heard up until now. On hearing this though you’d be forgiven for calling the earlier sounds mere hints: this is a full on dubstep (albeit in the Muse The 2nd Law vein and not Skrillex) attack. It is a fabulous ending to what will likely become a favourite album of the year.