earMusic/Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A
|New Model Army - Between|
Wine and Blood 2014
Emboldened also by the record's strong chart action in the U.K. and Germany, the Justin Sullivan-led outfit embarked on an ambitious European tour, but blood clots found in the leg of Michael Dean cut the campaign short and clouded their immediate future. There was a silver lining, however.
Relegated to the sidelines, Dean, responsible for creating the varied and gripping rhythmic gyrations of Between Dog and Wolf, made himself useful by collaborating with Sullivan on a captivating and diverse six-song EP of new material that fills up half of New Model Army's latest two-CD release, Between Wine and Blood – the other contains 11 compelling live cuts, most of which energetically and artfully revisit Between Dog and Wolf's innovation and dark beauty as if trying on old clothes and finding them an even better fit than before.
Performed with a raging fire in the belly and a good feel for the changing moods of the material, "Storm Clouds" slashes and burns, "Seven Times" gallops like a thoroughbred, "Horseman" rings in the apocalypse and the galvanizing "Between Dog and Wine" sweeps you up in its fervor – these concert versions running the gamut from quiet introspection to glorious populist awakenings.
As for the new stuff, there's nothing about Between Wine and Blood that sounds tired or stale. Instead, there is purity and clarity of vision, a batch of well-developed, sweeping melodies and sure hooks, anthemic choruses, evocative lyrics delivered with passion and a poet's soul, and supple, rich instrumentation. Almost unbearably tense and bracing, the pulse of "Angry Planet" races – angry, distorted guitars bounding across a bleak, shadowy landscape, as New Model Army takes Radiohead and Muse on the ride of their lives. "Guessing" is just as vigorous and propulsive, while "According to You" and "Devil's Bargain" empathetically couch probing questions and concerns in brooding, gently rolling melodic waves and "Sunrise" is carried by a generous chorus and taut momentum.
Still savagely critical of humanity's self-destructive drive, Sullivan can also paint beautiful imagery and balance his pointed political commentary with personal reflection amid the stormy rumbling of New Model Army's insurgent, grasping punk aesthetic. Blood still courses through their veins.
– Peter Lindblad