As brilliant as reviewing massive bands and artists is, there is still something special about being able to shine the spotlight on local talent. Luckily for me I live in the West Midlands so there is a pretty much a never ending source of great bands for me to get to grips with. So without further ado, I bring to you, the next band on this West Midlands/Black Country conveyor belt, Under A Banner.
Hailing from Wolverhampton Under A Banner are Adam Broadhurst (Lead vocals, guitar) Jake Brooks (Guitar) Kat Davis (Keyboards) Si Hill (Bass) and Tim Wilson. (Drums, percussion, vocals) The band’s latest EP Victory Time was released back in May and is the first recording to feature the talents of the aforementioned Books and Davis.
Despite my love of all things heavy for some reason I’ve always had a bit of a closet love affair with folk rock. There’s a kind of free and fun abandon that you don’t really get anywhere else and a fresh light-heartedness which will always put a smile on my face. Victory Time pulls on influence from all over the place but those folk rock roots are unmistakeable.
Opening track The Network comes complete with strong Irish folk flavour and pot shots at social media. In fact part of the second verse pretty much describes my entire Facebook newsfeed at the minute, and while ticking off the status checklist in my head I realise that I’m also equally guilty! Set at a break-neck pace the track is a great way to set things off and the guitar solo towards the end is also an obvious highlight.
If you follow the site on Twitter you’ll know that a while ago a spent a good few tweets extolling the virtues of a band called Sons of Clogger, who produce a brand of high energy folk the like of which I’m yet to hear anywhere else. Well title track Victory Time is basically Sons of Clogger with a rockier edge. Plus any track which repeats the phrases ‘stay here drinking’ and ‘drink with me’ is a winner in my eyes. Incredibly good fun from start to finish this track is now going to be the foundation of my future drinking sessions. (I’m talking hypothetically of course; as you know us music journos don’t drink….)
Leaving Here opens with an acoustic intro interspersed with occasional more powerful electronic thrusts before settling into another series of barnstorming rhythms. Picture Deep Purple and take away that early-mid 70’s fuzz and you’ve got this track down to a tee. Again the melodies are brilliantly catchy and the guitar solo is once more, an absolute beauty. I love the fact that pretty much every track on this record brings something new to the table and showcases a slightly different sound and side to the band, they might be many things but they’ll never be stale.
Penultimate track Summer Skies sees the band switch up their style again as they head into something resembling soft rock with predictably fantastic results. The rolling drumbeat intro on this one really sets the tone for what follows with the song clipping along at a great pace. There’s not a lot more than needs to be said here other than that this is just a great summer tune.
The almost military style marching drumbeat which greets the arrival of closing track soon breaks away as the band fall back to their more folky roots. It feels like the band have gone full circle as this short but sweet skips through its two and a half minute duration.
Victory Time is a fantastic melting pot of more musical styles than I can be bothered to try and count. I’m sure if you were that way inclined you could find bits of pretty much everything in there. Despite this the record still feels focussed and cohesive and that is something which I’m really impressed with. The vocals are great, the guitar work and solos are also equally impressive. Trust me some of these licks are hard enough to lace even the hardest of hard rock records. The real highlight along with the songwiting however, has to be all of the rhythms and melodies which power this record along from start to finish. From glorious simplicity to feats of instrumental dexterity that I wish I was capable of, it’s all there.
I think the biggest complement that I can give this EP is that I’ve absolutely loved reviewing it. It’s been great fun. I just hope that I have done the music justice, because this really is such an enjoyable little record. This one is going to be getting plenty more spins from me this summer, I can promise you that.