Independent release on Saturday 28 September 2019.
For fans of In Flames, Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium.
Smoke & Mirrors (2019) is the (from what I can work out) fourth album from Scottish (Glasgow/Stirling-based) rock/metal band The Colony. The album appears to be named after Professor Neil Gaiman’s short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors (1998).
“I thought I heard a tiger, somewhere close by, for there was a low roar that made the whole world shake.”From Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
This is another release that I found cowering at the bottom of my email inbox. A remnant from 2019 (that was a difficult year for me). Rather than glossing over it, I threw it into the mix for this month of catching up with older releases.
Seeing that they are from Scotland immediately explains why I held onto it—support the home teams and all that.
On The House described the album as “…masquerades as a math-rock symphony and slowly ascends back into power metal madness…”
Let’s give it a spin…
Ah, but before we do, let’s just enjoy the creative prose of the press release:
The world is full of tired and jaded people who think they have seen all that life has to offer. They wander in blindfolds, stumbling towards the end in their shrouds of disappointment, wasting day after precious day, night after beautiful night. But if your eyes stay open, if your ears still hear and your heart still listens, you’ll find that one street you never noticed before. There will be a doorway that before has always been just out of sight. There will be a key that has never been turned and a box that has never been opened.
In that box you may hear the sound of a band that can stoke the flames in your blood back from cold ashes, that can ignite the passion that you used to feel when songs spoke seemingly only to you. A band that has everything in place to take on the world. With their new album, Smoke And Mirrors, The Colony have created something that transcends all their previous work. They have created music forged from real passion and emotion, a mesmerising intertwining of melody and aggression, choruses to soar upon, songs with breath-taking landscapes of jagged peaks and staggering chasms. The vocals switch effortlessly from a ground-shaking roar to sweetly, supremely melodic progressions, the guitars spin spiralling solos around riffs like mountains and the rhythm section combine to form a heartbeat, a battering ram, a planet-gutting force. This is the sound of a band ready to explode and take the world with it.Press release
The album builds slowly, waking up, willed into being. The anticipatory “Smoke” (track 1) emerges from the silence with a solitary guitar whining, building, until it explodes with some Iron Maiden style prowess.
“On my own” (track 2) attacks straight off the bat. It is powerful and melodic, with vocals varying between a deep, heavy growl and a more rock-tastic melodic baritone. There is already a fragility revealed in the heart-wrenching guitar solo which is more fully realised in the gentle honesty of “Soul saviour” (track 3).
From the driving opening tracks, the pace is slowed a little with the more meditative “The flood” (track 4). Swirling guitars accompany a beautiful chorus.
The ‘sawing’ opening riff of “Here we stand” (track 5) lifts the mood and pace once again, soon exploding into a driving, upbeat song—guitars, bass and drums creating the perfect vehicle for Cullen’s fine vocals. “Always” (track 6) continues the frontal assault with a drum-pounding intro. But again, never is the power delivered at the cost of melody. The Colony manages to piece these together in harmony, one serving the other.
“Mirrors” (track 7) which is the shortest track on the album, creates another meditative space like a shorter, slower-paced “Losfer words” from Iron Maiden’s Powerslave (1984) album.
By this point, the band’s method is clear: driving riffs, pull back a little for melodic chorus. But that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. “Carry on” (track 8) is quite derivative of previous tracks, with a novel half-spoken interlude for interest, but it is as heart-warming and triumphant as anything they’ve performed so far.
“Disconnected” (track 9) gets the ballad treatment, with a stripped back solo bass guitar backing Cullen’s focused vocals. The emotion builds with the song, culminating in a soaring conclusion.
The introspective introduction to the final track “Sands of time” (track 10) continues with the slower-paced, ponderous feel of the second half of this album. It’s maybe the perfect showcase of all the styles demonstrated on this wonderful album: slow, melodic, fast, heavy, but at all times putting the song first and riding everything on the crest of some magnificently melodic waves.
A triumphant celebration of modern metal, indeed! This is the perfect fusion of so many musical influences, sprinting the boundary between rock and metal, heavy and fragile, fast and slow. I look forward to exploring where The Colony has gone in the last five years. But in the meantime, this is a triumph. This genre of music is not usually my favourite, but my enjoyment of this album has grown and grown with every listen. It speaks to my heart—I hope it speaks to yours too.
Review score: 95%
Imperative PR contacted me (in 2018… ahem!) inviting me to preview The Colony’s then-forthcoming album, thank you. Sorry it took so long to review! I have no connections to either Imperative PR or The Colony. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Imperative PR, and to The Colony for continuing to create fresh, exciting new music.