Here Be Dragons
There is a UK act whose guitar-oriented Gothic Rock has been trascending that simple heading for the last ten years. It's called Rhombus and, even more representative than other perennial bridesmaids, it lacks the menacing styling that is supposedly essential to this genre. Nonetheless, this becomes a trifle when listening their delightful forms which, by the way, not only address darkness but also light. The way they update the finest sounds from the preceding millenium is attainable by very few current bands and also evinces knowledge of melody and talent to write songs. However, what makes their style recognisable is the harmonizing twist of male and female vocals. Leaded by beating bass lines, the rhythmical section sets a groovy pace. Around it, a stunning guitar crossfire between riffs and swirls takes place. Together with well-managed passages of electric violin and some refreshing folk arrangements, all these elements draw a complex weave of melodies that makes the singers dazzle even more. Thus, this refined rock hooks since the first note as demonstrated by their second full-length album "Here Be Dragons".
Although its highly acclaimed predecessor "Open The Sky" left the bar very high three years ago, the new release has by far surpassed all the expectations. The dedication and effort that Rhombus has invested in the recording of "Here Be Dragons" can be spotted in every detail of the eleven tracks featured. During no less than two years, Rob Walker (guitars, keyboards), Mya (vocals), Edward Grassby (vocals, bass, programming) and Ian Grinn (guitars, vocals) have meticulously composed their best repertoire to date. Supported by Clair Tomlinson (backing vocals), Ed Wolstenholme (fiddles, bouzouki, mandolin) and, in a first for Rhombus, Lee Talbot on drums, the band's sonic output is now more complete and authentic than ever. Adding to this, the album has been also graced by vocal contributors such as Chris Tuke (Berlin Black), Andrew Birch (The Last Cry), Phil 'Spooks' Green (Dead Eyes Opened) and Alixandrea Corvyn (Last July), among others. If it were not enough, Gordon Young (Seraphin Twin/Dream Disciples/Pretentious Moi?) has mixed and mastered this record, which is destined to become a modern classic without taking long. Let's see why...
The sweeping "T'intro" throws the album to the eastern winds and so the title takes on a meaning quickly. Barely one hundred cinematic seconds are enough to set up the themed undercurrent: the dragon as oriental metaphor of time(less) and its derivative vital experiences. The instrumental opener's last throes dissolves into the vigorous "Fallout", whose assertive riffing and forbidding thuds lift up an epic wall of sound. Against it, a winding guitar melody bounces time and again to delight of gothrockers. The diva's voice enters potent and melodious, and not long after gently baritones join it perfectly in a memorable duet. Synths are replaced with fiddles, and so drama leads to euphoria through the chorus. Throughout the song, moods raise and fall constantly with a certain operatic air, showing the band's talent for creation. Indeed, the sonic assortment is one of the album's strengths and the next cut "Staying Under" is no exception to this. Coming with catchy electronics, it makes clear who is behind the cunning mixing. Deep male vocals are in command of the singing now and this contributes to black out the soundscape, along with somber bass throbs and threatening power chords. Even full of dynamics, the tune also goes into gloomy terrains in its slowest parts through evocative guitar figures. The aroma of classics is still up in the air when the title track steps in airly. "Here Be Dragons" is a folksy rock jaw-dropper, where delicate melodies and forceful rhythms come together in a perfect maelstrom. A lovely ensemble made up of fiddles, keyboards, mandolins and voices, increases yet more the charm of this spherical piece. Following "Turn Around" is a towering crescendo of electrifying guitars and drums along which the heavenly female singing is offset and drawn beautifully. Sweeping synths and jangly guitars bring back memories of the decades when this genre was in full swing. One of the crowning moments comes next, as balladic elegance in itself. Soft cadences make their way through a gloom-laden backdrop of strings and keys in "What You Wanted". Vocals hover over it, soaring and soulful, joining together in a grandiose psalm-like chorus that lingers in the memory. "The One Thing" recovers the upbeat mood since its first note, driven by groovy riffs an addictive percussion. Cool keys and arpeggios twirl around the enchanting voices, giving the track an exciting vibe. Only the female canticle over the last third, as if taken from a requiem, and the ethereal final outbreak, shed light to the trascendental 'thing' which is referred to in the song's title. Obviously, complexity and variation are a constant in "Here Be Dragons". Next "Lifeline", reveals a less well-known facet of Rhombus. Although their hallmark is clearly present in the chorus, there is also an interesting approach to dance. Ground-breaking riffs, catchy beats and drums, and sinous guitar grooves make this tune flammable. Conspicously touched by 'The Equaliser' mixing hands, this Goth Rock evergreen will fill the dancefloors for a long time. In contrast, ominous piano and synths introduce "Tomorrow's Yesterday", taking us back into warm melancholy realms. Martial thuds, moody bass pulses and mournful classic tapping start to increase the tension. The exquisite vocal duet soars above a dark-edged backdrop of finely-honed strings and keys, with undertones of abandonment and tragedy. The following "Timeless & Elegant", definitely lives up to its title. The word 'sublime' makes sense to define its blending of power and harmony. The guitar weaving is excelent one more time, ranging from groovy to refined, and its interaction with the flawless vocal dueting is probably within the reach of this band only. Add to this formula the delectable string twists and the striking dynamic shifts and you will get Rhombus' rock as its best. Without lowering that quality mark, the jubilant "Made To Last" makes its appearence as a perfect finale. Folk and rock go hand in hand throughout this lovely dreamscape, which is tastefully adorned with mandolins and violins. Vibrant, joyous and highly evocative, this tune leaves an indelible impression on the listener's mind. And the same applies to the whole album. 'Here Be Dragons' is the jewel of the Rhombus' crown and its rocking allure is hard to resist. The intertwining grooves and armonies are so cunningly combined that this album will never gather dust on a top shelf somewhere.
Review by Billyphobia