Review Summary: Godsticks expand their unique brand of progressive rock delivering a much heavier, yet still distinctly melodic presentation.
When the Welsh trio Godsticks released their splendid full-length debut Spiral Vendetta
in 2010, it didn't take long for critics and fans to start singing their praises. The band is definitely onto something totally unique in the current progressive rock scene. Their style is difficult to pigeon-hole, and it's safe to say they've already developed their own identity with a peculiar mesh-up of art rock and jazz fusion. As expected, The Envisage Conundrum
continues the foray into their refined style, superbly combining the angular arrangements with bitter-sweet melodies.
Frontman Darran Charles is at the top of his game augmenting the complex rhythmic patterns with finessed guitar leads and supreme jazz-inflicted vocal lines. The song structures remain admirably adventurous taking some time to thoroughly decipher. Even though the band likes to describe their style as progressive pop due to its ethereal nature, the album requires multiple spins to be fully embraced. The patience is rewarded though as most songs happen to be enticing at long last. The ballads that propel the mid-section of the record are arguably the best indication. Both “Benchmark” and “Submerged” deliver blissful, Gentle Giant-echoing melodies on top of labyrinthine transitions.
In comparison to its predecessor, The Envisage Conundrum
is more dynamic in its sonic approach boasting several heavier tracks that, according to the trio, work better in a live setting. Charles' distorted riffs highlight “Caught In A Bind” and the title track that sports an instantly memorable hook in its enchanting refrain. The newly acquired technical metal influence also makes its presence felt in the three-piece epic “Borderstomp” that showcases Godsticks in their most ambitious and emotionally bruised mode. While Charles' lyrics have always been distinctly personal, here they reek of disappointment and anger. The suite's second segment “Blind” is particularly masterful with its exquisite progressions climaxing in a beautiful cello motif. In contrast, subdued “Raised Concerns” is stripped down of any complexity making for a deeply poignant finale.
However, there are points when the presentation gets bogged down by the trio's great ambitions. The flow of the record isn't as impeccable as the debut's, being disrupted either by the occasionally subpar songwriting of “In A Way That Ended Me” or the lengthy piano instrumental in “Disclosure.” Despite these shortcomings, The Envisage Conundrum
is an essential progressive rock release that bursts with originality, the quality which often proves deficient in the scene populated by copycats.