Twin Atlantic’s January release of Power offers an invigorated sound and a new direction for the alternative rock band. The Scottish four-piece return four years after the well received GLA album in 2016, following a string of successful singles, including ‘The Chaser’ and ‘No Sleep’. After such a clear stadium bait album with GLA, it’s interesting to see whether they can solidify their place as a stadium-worthy band or whether Power packs the punch they were hoping for.
The 10-track album starts off strong with ‘Oh! Euphoria!’ and its beats and breathy inhales cutting between earphones, building into a forceful pre-chorus. Its chorus is catchy, with vocalist Sam McTrusty’s distinctive voice coming through with trademark Scottish accent firmly attached. The song is purposefully big, similarly to most of Twin Atlantic’s biggest singles from throughout the years (‘Brothers and Sisters’, ‘Edit Me’). There’s a hint of the electronic and synthesiser sound that runs through the entire album, definitely setting it apart from previous albums that have been more traditionally located in the ‘rock’ genre. ‘Barcelona’ comes into its own from the pre-chorus onwards, with the rhythm kicking in and the instruments reaching a pleasant crescendo. A couple of the pop culture references in the lyrics can feel a little shoe-horned in, but McTrusty’s self-aware reference to loving “a millennial who threw off my art and threw out my rhythm” lets this off. For me, ‘Barcelona’ needs a second listen to really get into it to recognise its true potential as a highlight of a live show.
‘Novocaine’ unleashes the electronic influences that have been bubbling below the surface in the first couple of songs. It’s fast and frantic, with vocals obscured by the drums and synthesiser sounds, but it works. ‘Novocaine’ was the first single to be released from Power, setting the tone for the band’s sound progression away from guitar music to guitar music with a twist of synth and artificiality. It’s another clear try for a festival hit, but I can’t begrudge it that - it is good fun, with the kind of fast beat that will get any crowd jumping and fully invested by the first chorus. ‘Mount Bungo’ follows this chart-climbing single with thumping, distorted beats. It feels like a build-up to a moody, intense song, but is actually a 42-second long instrumental track. I wasn’t expecting this, but I like that it didn’t follow the expectations; how much I’d listen to this outside of the album play through is questionable though. ‘I Feel It Too’ is a return to normality, another loud, upbeat song with a simple but effective chorus. The distorted guitar riffs and vocal echoes add some texture to the track. Although on first listen this wasn’t a stand-out, I think this could be a pretty successful single and it wouldn’t feel out of place being played at an indie and rock club night.
A little more subdued than some of the stadium-fillers, ‘Ultraviolet Truth’ is nice enough but not one of my favourites. ‘Asynchronous’ is another short instrumental track, this time at just over 2-minutes of gentle piano. For an alt-rock album of only 10 songs, it’s an interesting and unusual move to have two purely instrumental tracks. I’m a sucker for nice piano music and could imagine this underscoring an essay writing session; it’s nice to see a different vibe and a break of the mould for Twin Atlantic. There’s a return to form with ‘Volcano’, which doesn’t do much for me until it peaks at the first chorus a minute in. There are some fun lyrics, intense drum beats and a great guitar solo; all things considered, it’s a pretty good classic Twin Atlantic offering. You can’t deny it gets the head bopping along. The outro lyrics of “I’d sacrifice it all / My body and my soul / You bring me back to life” are in your face, impassioned and my favourite part of the song.
Rounding off the 34-minute long album - weirdly short I feel, partly down to the inclusion of the shorter all-instrumental songs that feel like an experiment that I think has paid off - are the final two tracks. ‘Messiah’ opens with a plodding, thudding beat that feels like a crisper version of the intensity of the drums from ‘Mount Bungo’. McTrusty’s vocals are restrained and quieter than most of the other songs, in a way which I enjoy as you can’t just let the sound wash over you like it’s easy to do when bands songs blur into one another. The lyrics play on the idea of a messiah figure and following a cult, an interesting theme that is reflected in the restrained volume as it feels like the words are being told to you in confidence, almost under breath. ‘Messiah’ builds in the final minute, becoming more imploring with harder-hitting beats. Definitely one of the stronger moments for me. Power ends with ‘Praise Me’, following the electronic influences to the end with distorted synths, fast drums and the repetition of “hallelujah, hallelujah!” setting the scene for the final track. Electronic beeps, whirs and zoom sounds undercut the vocals; there’s a lot going on sonically but it fits together efficiently. ‘Praise Me’ feels on the edge of a techno beat drop for the last minute or so, keeping the high energy right up until the final second.
It feels like the album as a whole has embraced layering and artificiality more than previous albums, especially when you compare them to the more heavily indie and alt-rock influenced hits of ‘Crash Land’ and ‘Make A Beast of Myself’. There’s not really a “slowie” or ballad-style song to pour your heart out to, everything is hard-hitting, fast and loud. It’s the side of Twin Atlantic that has been developing since GLA; I’m a big fan of their earlier albums, which tended to have more sentimentality and less theatrical big sounds, so some of this direction doesn’t always hit the mark for me. There are a few standouts that are so clearly envisioned blasting out over a festival field at sunset - ‘Oh! Euphoria, ‘Novocaine’ and ‘Praise Me’, for sure. At a neat 10 tracks, no track stands out as a bloater or as one letting the side down, and the decision to really just do 8 ‘proper songs’, vocals and all, means the album is tight and knows what it’s going for. Maybe Twin Atlantic are following the current popularity of synth-infused pop and rock a little too close to the line at times, but overall Power is a solid album that’s climbed the charts for good reason.
Article By Charlotte Boulton