After a fantastic 2017, 2018 got off to the worst possible start for London’s Shields with the sad news of the passing of Guitarist George Christie on 31st January. Impressive new single “It’s Killing Me” has been released just 5 days before via Long Branch Records and with the bands new album completed the news came out of the blue. Returning to the live arena in support of Escape The Fate must have been an unimaginable challenge but the bands decision to continue can only be admired. The news of guest vocals from Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills and Joel Heywood from Silent Screams on the album speaks volumes of the bands ambitions before a single note is heard. So what does the follow up to their 2015 EP “Guilt” sound like?
The album starts with the brutal and dark introduction piece that is “Intimacy”. Dark industrial sounds underpin a pounding drum pattern from Alex Rayner while some Wes Borland-esq guitar work intertwines DJent heavy sounds and angst ridden lyrics about being afraid of intimacy, its a show and tell on what is to come. “Black Dog” maintains the darkness, depicting as the title says, by a black dog, or black cloud if you will. While the DJent smashes through the verses, the big chorus complete with underpinning lead guitar work lifts the whole thing to a new level. The obligatory “blegh” in the Lotus Eater styled guitar work closing is perfectly timed. “In The Grey” has a similarly big clean chorus but this time replaces the lead guitar work with a pile driver of a DJent poly-rhythm. The bounce of the riffage and verve of the high energy delivery makes the song an almost immediate crowd pleaser. “Upside Down” plays off frontman Joe Edwards and guitarist Sam Kubrick’s vocals against each other with both showing impressive range. The band mix it up and show some Deathcore leanings alongside their DJent and Metalcore tones.
“White Embers” features the first of the two guest vocal performances with Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills appearing. The song continues to mix up the styles, but Spencer Charnas presence gives Joe Edwards the chance to deliver heavier vocals. The collaboration works well as Charnas’ range complements the other vocals while giving that sparkle to one of the stand out tracks. “It’s Killing Me” introduces a few new ideas including more interplay between the melodic and the heavier side that builds against a backdrop of themes around finding the inner strength to continue. “Delilah” brings forth the angst ridden defiance with some brutal verses that counter Kubrick’s stirring and passionate cleans. The stomp-y interplay between the guitars progresses the band closer to that Tech-Metal sound that they move between. “Love Is Dead” opens up with a gang chant of socially aware lyricism that stirs the emotions while delivering a punch during the verse. The melodic drop in the later part of the track allows the band to showcase the breadth of their musicianship as the song comes to a close.
“Mother” is the second song on the album to feature guest vocals, this time around from Joel Heywood of Silent Screams. As the band up the tempo dramatically from the closing melodies of “Love Is Dead” to deliver a pile driver of a song. Swirling bouncy riffs smash against the guttural uncleans that will no doubt inspire circle pits and walls of death in the live arena. “Sibling” slows things down while still delivering crushing rhythms by playing with melody and melancholy, while clearly being written about a family member. “N35.E138” is an almost industrial soundscape theme that evokes science fiction in the same way that Loathe do with their album “The Cold Sun”. The synths and digitally enhanced sounds build into some melodic guitar work that serves to introduce album closer “Aokigahara”. Lyrically depicting a fear of dying but not of death itself while being ready to live is an apt sentiment. The lead covered breakdown that brings the song and album to a close is a beautiful piece of musicianship.
Going into this review it seemed like a challenge to write something that wasn’t touched by the sentiment surrounding guitarist George Christie’s passing. The fact is, the band have stepped up and delivered an absolute belter of an album full of mosh worthy tunes and sing-a-long choruses with thought provoking nihilistic lyrics reminiscent of Architects. The album is a tsunami wave after tsunami wave of DJent riffage, supremely good vocal combinations and interplay soaked in pile driving bouncy rhythms. It has to be said – it would be a challenge not to bang your head to and smile at a multitude of points during this epic, deep and powerful release. “Life In Exile” takes you on a journey that transcends the darkness and delivers you to light. It’s an album that is so good that it makes you wonder what they could have achieved if George Christie was still with us but there is the distinct sense that the band have done their time on the gutter circuit and now is their time to shine [8.5/10]
2. Black Dog
3. In The Grey
4. Upside Down
5. White Embers (featuring Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills)
6. It’s Killing Me
8. Love Is Dead
9. Mother (featuring Joel Heywood of Silent Screams)