Sound: Upon listening to Sharks' first few EPs, they will almost certainly come across as a straight-up punk band. Whilst many strive for this tag, Sharks frontman James Mattock apparently resents this term somewhat, claiming he wouldn't care if they were called a pop band. Fittingly, the Leamington Spa outfit's debut doesn't rattle with the intensity of their previous work, but more rings with the sound of a band craving a ticket to the big time. Opening track "Til The Wonders Rise" kicks the album off with majestic guitars and stomping drums, a truly uplifting effort. Lead single "Arcane Effigies" is similarly elevating, along with wistful album highlight "Able Moving Hearts", which also features a gorgeous lead guitar line. "On A Clear Day You Can See Yourself" chugs along at a bluesy pace, with country-tinted guitars, representing a new turn for the band, as does "Turn To You", as close as you'll get to a Sharks ballad.
One of the band's previous best songs, "Fallen On Deaf Ears", features a magnificent brass section, and this is reprised for perhaps the album's best song, "Patient Spider". Though some may regard its catchy nature and "ba ba ba ba das" as a cheap attempt at on obvious single choice, it is truly a standout track because of this unique and somewhat experimental take on punk.
But for all the positives, it is difficult to shake the fact that this album does not have an aggressive number to rival favourites such as the classic "Trains". An optimist however, would merely point to a band developing and refining its sound. // 8
Lyrics: James Mattock's lyrics are almost always very difficult to decipher, meaning it can sometimes be difficult to find significance or meaning in them; take "Til The Wonders Rise"'s chorus for example; "The ties are waiting for you to bind". Perhaps more accessible is "Patient Spider", a conversation between lyricist and arachnid, and a very curious and worthwhile musing on life and loss. Despite its provocative title, eponymous album closer "No Gods" is also an engaging consideration of individuality and freedom. Mattock also has a talent for graphic imagery and metaphor, as exemplified in "Dawn Soft Light"; "Time's a tightened tourniquet for bloodless limbs."
As with the musical sound, there is a notable shift in aggression and rawness in the vocals. Previously, Mattock held the rare and (arguably) enviable title of being a vocal dead ringer for Joe Strummer. On "No Gods" though, the vocals are far cleaner and clearer, sometimes to a fault - he could be mistaken for an American pop-punk singer at some points. // 7
Overall Impression: There are a couple of off-music points I feel it necessary to note here. One is the album's title; it's nihilistic nature could be deemed mere shock-tactics and really doesn't suit the more upbeat nature of the album itself. The other is the artwork - utter rubbish. It does nothing to capture the energy and vitality of the band.
However, this is a strong debut overall. Whilst the songs are almost certainly slow-growers, they are well crafted, refined and performed with vigour. Whilst hard-core fans will bemoan the increasingly shiny production and lack of venom, they should surely appreciate the consistency in songwriting and particularly musicianship. "Patient Spider" and "Able Moving Hearts" are definitely the immediate highlights, if more songs here followed their example, this would be an unmissable debut. For the meantime however, this can only be called an album of promise. // 8