Review Summary: Unless a certain TV series exposes ‘Bones’, Young Guns won’t fill arenas just yet.
It may admittedly be personal preference which dictates such an opinion, but it has always surprised just how few rock bands play a huge, anthemic style that should appeal to a mass worldwide audience. Fear of personal preservation in taking on the big boys is an issue, but it only takes a few songs of such a sound to catch on, and a band could be filling arenas just like Muse and Kings of Leon... Or better yet, filling stadiums like Foo Fighters, Green Day and U2. Sure, each of these success stories put their own distinctive stamp on the formula, and it is this integral quality which usually proves the stumbling block for up-and-comers. From the very beginning of their career, it has been crystal clear that English quintet Young Guns have wished to join such outfits, and they got off to an excellent start with debut LP ‘All Our Kings are Dead’. Coming off as a heavier, more atmospheric Lostprophets, a detailed and well-crafted lyrical and musical edge appeared to be the band’s secret ingredient... One they look to hone on second LP ‘Bones’.
Far from being a re-tread of its predecessor, ‘Bones’ mixes things up by using a change of theme to drive a growth in sound. Whereas the debut used motifs of war & rebellion as the catalyst for an aggressive edge, one look at this track-list gives away themes of death and making the most of one’s life. This alternately gives off a dark - yet uplifting - mood, which ultimately results in ‘Bones’ not being as immediate as ‘All Our Kings Are Dead’, but having a growth factor that is just as effective. ‘Learn My Lesson’ spotlights this with its huge sound initially overwhelming its hooks, which do not quite befit its designation as lead single for such an anthemic release. Better showcases of the quintet’s style of rock are the rollicking ‘Brother In Arms’, the dual guitar driven opener ‘I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die’, and the massive title track, which contains that difficult to pinpoint atmosphere right from its opening notes... Not to mention a rousing call & response chorus, and a fantastic guitar solo and accompanying drum barrage.
While often slick and crisp, the production courtesy of Dan Weller (guitarist of progressive metal band SikTh) always flows well and does a great job in giving off a live vibe, pushing Gustav Wood’s vocals to soaring heights. Wood not only has a strong, commanding voice, but also has the quality of conviction. His passionate delivery of lyrics revolving around themes of regret, reflection and motivation overcome the arguably clichéd words used (see the aforementioned opener and ‘Brother In Arms’). He also handles both loud and quiet moments with confidence, the latter of which surface frequently to give ‘Bones’ some much-needed – if polarizing – diversity. The atmosphere turns to solemn on short interludes ‘A Hymn For All I’ve Lost’ and ‘Interlude’, both of which unfortunately sound like failed longer tracks, while the now customary epic closer ‘Broadfields’ runs the gamut of emotions, even allowing Wood to brandish his falsetto.
So, will ‘Bones’ be the album which catapults Young Guns from playing clubs to packing arenas? Unless a certain television series ditches their The Crystal Method theme and exposes the title track to an instant worldwide audience of over ten million, then the answer is no... Not just yet. While it contains next to no filler, includes a sufficient amount of enjoyable anthems, and is musically accomplished (Ben Jolliffe’s drums are especially impressive, the dual guitar attack is competent and the sparingly used keys are wise), ‘Bones’ is predominantly a consolidatory release. Continuing to establish their anthemic sound, while branching out carefully, should hopefully provide a stepping stone for the band to hit a home run (or should that read “six”) some time in the future. For the time being, fans of driving, contemporary hard-rock with a melodic tilt – especially the more patient listeners - should find plenty to shout along to here. “I feel it in my bones... BONES”.
Recommended Tracks: Bones, Brother In Arms, I Was Born I Have Lived I Will Surely Die & Dearly Departed.