New Model Army
Between Dog & Wolf
Shamanic rock to the delight of rebels. The modern and the archaic blending to produce an expanded state of consciousness that reconciles us with the Nature elements and our original essence. So significant and revolutionary is the kind of music awaiting us in "Between Dog And Wolf", the twelfth studio album by New Model Army. More than three decades after its inception in Bradford (England), the post-punk/rock myth is living a second youth and the same applies to their sound, which reveals itself more profound (yet visceral enough), balanced and meaningful than ever. Not in vein, everything in this record is conceived to take us on an intense journey, from the current social ostracism to the primitive spirituality (the nods to cave-painting in Joolz's impressive artwork are not arbitrary), what encloses itself a mature post-punk attitude. Tribal rhythms and throbbing bass chords drive the songs in symbiosis, while guitars, keyboards, violins, xylophones, harmonicas, hammer dulcimers, cellos, harps and a wide variety of brass arrangements, weave a dream-like realm around Justin Sullivan's warmly concise singing. His signature vocal style is shown up even more haunting (almost telluric) and evocative than usual, due to the interaction with the enthralling backdrop. Passion, solitude, freedom, pain and nature, flowing through fourteen art rock pieces, frank and oceanic at the same time. In addition, the record engineer and producer Joe Barresi (who has also worked with bands like Tool, Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss and Bad Religion among others) has known to interlink the songs subtly through the mixing, leaving his imprint on them.
On this new album, New Model Army creates a more atmospheric and cinematic style, which they achieve by the heavy use of multi-ethnic sounds and tribal percussions. So the band's unmistakable post-punk substance appears dissolved into multiple artistic forms. Thus, we can find ourselves trapped in the somber undercurrent of the choral opener "Horsemen", lifted up by the astral vibe of "Pull The Sun", caught up in the eerie atmosphere of the closer "Ghosts" or carried away by the desert charm that pervades "Qasr El Nil Bridge". The repertoire also includes inspiring windswept gems like "Kievel" and "Summer Moors", whose distant guitar lines and arpeggios never fail to send chills down the spine. Not to mention the emotive, velvety rock ballad "Lean Back And Fall". Following that progressive path, it is also worth noting the ominous and heartrending "I Need More Time" and, more fervent and assertive in rhythm, the pair formed by "Stormclouds" and the title track. The dank, hard-edged guitar riffing, along with the deafening tribal drumming, make both consecutive tunes stand out from the others, marking together the high peak of this record. "Tomorrow Came" is probably the song that better represents the band's classic sound, although in a rejuvenated and contemporary manner. In contrast, the folksy "March In September" runs jolly and upbeat in appearence, but the lyrics conceal a sorrowful message of frustration: ".../ So you tried to make family / But nothing was given / So you gave them your own blood / For theirs had been stolen /...". Every track is somehow connected with each other, both through words and music, and that's why this album deserves a non-stop listening (headphones are recommended to relish all the details). The songs flow one into another with ease and gradually a strange rapture occurs, putting that far horizon (often referred to in the lyrics direct or indirectly) within reach for the listener.
So it is "Between Dog And Wolf": expansive, exuberant and evocative. Even lacking of any straightaway recognizable hit (specially for those who wrongly are expecting a clone of "Vengeance"), this is one of the more creative and finest works in the New Model Army's catalogue and marks a fresh new start in their career. Post-punk wolves in shamanic rock clothing. ".../ There's a line of shadow on the far horizon / It could be stormclouds and it could be mountains /...".
Review by Billyphobia