Review Summary: Progressive, sublime alt-rock that will fill you with a peaceful aura.
A single green leaf graces the cover of The Cold Still
, suggesting a mild, animate approach to The Boxer Rebellion’s third studio album. It stands in stark contrast to the title – one that alludes to lifelessness; a barren and uninhabited landscape entombed by the deep freeze of winter. The Cold Still
feels like the emergence of that green foliage through the harsh elements, offering hope to the rest of the vital, functioning world. With that viable nature comes an overwhelming feeling of peace, like rays of sunlight returning the warmth and tranquility to an area that was once abandoned by everything living. The Cold Still
is serene, uplifting, and accomplished – and likely one of the best soft rock albums you will hear this year.
The Boxer Rebellion have crafted a sound that is undeniably haunting – something between the likes of Coldplay, Radiohead, and The National – and spread it out across layers of alt-rock ambiance. Lead vocalist Nathan Nicholson is often reminiscent of Dredg’s Gavin Hayes, but with the versatility to employ a sound as different as that of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. The instrumentation anchoring The Cold Still
is almost exclusively geared towards concocting a vivid atmosphere, as the weighty drums, U2-like ooh ooh
’s, and echoed acoustic picking all come into play at various points in the album. The record thrives on the mid-tempo rock song, favoring delves into balladry over ascension into a heavier sound. The wave-like progression from one track to another is expertly arranged, and it is just one aspect that allows the album to thrive to such an admirable extent. For some, the thought of another indie/alt-rock band vying to become the next Radiohead would be a complete turn-off. Luckily, The Boxer Rebellion are at the top of their game, combining the aforementioned influences with masterful execution of their own unique craft. And at ten songs that total just under forty minutes, The Cold Still
will leave you salivating for more.
Although the sound is not entirely
their own, at no point do the band’s efforts feel cheapened; the album successfully blends The Boxer Rebellion’s primary influences with unique traits that ever-so-subtly distinguish them from their peers. The Cold Still
is extremely consistent, as every song carries its weight in terms of the album’s overarching atmosphere while also contributing something entirely unique from the other nine tracks. The opener “No Harm” errs on the side of repetitiveness, but it is forgivable because it swells with an unforgettably luscious chorus and gently swaying verses. The buzzing guitars in “Step Out of the Car” pick up the pace with an almost punk-rock type of feel before the record returns to its forte in the moody, percussion driven “Locked in the Basement.” “Organ Song” delivers what it promises, and surprisingly dodges clichés with a resoundingly upbeat tone that ushers in the second half of the track list. “The Runner” just might be the most important song on The Cold Still
, with an exploding urgent chorus, unraveling of tension through the verses, and energetic guitar backing that will make the song a fan favorite during live settings. “Doubt” ends the album with a beautiful, gentle ballad and a distorted solo to close everything out. There is no doubt, however, that something unusually great has transpired by this point on The Cold Still
The Boxer Rebellion are coming into their own, and this album is proof that they might even be on their way to the pinnacle of ambient alt-rock. For now, that green leaf sprouting out of the ground is but a shrub. But if The Boxer Rebellion continue to hone in on their craft by showering it with creative raindrops and warming it with bright rays of personality, they may eventually stand tall with some of the other greats – the towering forests of Radiohead, Coldplay, and The National. No longer cold and no longer still, this is a band quickly rising towards the top.