Twin Atlantic

Great Divide

Written by: TL on 18/08/2014 16:48:07

Having risen fast from the emergence of 2009's mini album "Vivarium", to the point where the band now frequents British festival stages and have toured in support of prominent bands like Blink-182 and Thirty Seconds To Mars, one could relatively safely make the assessment that Twin Atlantic is the second-most happening rock band from Scotland over the past few years. They've grown tremendously, but their integrity is still in question when compared to the venerable Biffy Clyro, with the latter taking a comfortable lead in direct (and arguably unfair) comparisons, at least this far. Whether or not Twin Atlantic perceives this as a head-to-head competition would only be speculation though, but what we know for certain is that they're a band full of ambition for bigger things, as signified clearly by the arrival of their new album "Great Divide", the flag-waving visual aesthetic of which has hinted epic things over the past couple of months.

It's really hard though, not to start a review of "Great Divide" by criticizing the simple, piano-based intro "The Ones That I Love", the musical minimalism of which allows the preachy lyrics to "shine" ever awkwardly. "You can tell that the youth of today has lost their voice," croons singer/guitarist Sam McTrusty with cringeworthy amounts of yearning pathos, before offering that "Music is my therapy, I can listen to it all night long". Relatable? Or banal? I'm leaning towards the latter. Fortunately things are considerably improved with the start of "Heart And Soul", which has a back and forth between guitar and vocals in the verse that is pretty much the catchiest bit on the album, getting stuck in your head immediately, despite the fact that the track overall is the kind of "almost great rock song" that would've been awesome if it wasn't for a way too typical stadium rock chorus that fails to deliver on the promise of the verse.

The album includes twelve tracks, and if you take a view from the top, it's painstakingly clear that the "too typical stadium rock" description fits most of it all too well. The problem is not that it is a big sounding record, because Twin Atlantic's potential initially solidified with "Free", a record that was larger than life in several places, yet that album was characterised fully by edgy, rebellious sentiments and a youthful musical energy that completed the atmosphere. "Free" got in your face, but "Great Divide" sounds almost like gospel at times, all glossed over and encouraging to the point where the sentiments border on sounding condescending, and where you can visualise yourself in the concert venue growing weary of clapping or jumping along more out of obligation than because you are actually excited. Like a typical Snow Patrol song on the radio, "Great Divide" offers the kind of mood that is initially contagious yet never resolves in any particularly impressive way. The up-beat attempt of anthemics in "Hold On" is forgotten as soon as the song ends, and the typically violin-soaked balladry of "Oceans" is so utterly predictable and uneventful that you never make it to caring about the lyrics because any close listen will have you falling asleep over the uninspired arrangement.

While such examples of mediocre over-reaching are rampant across the album, it's must be conceded that this is not a complete disaster though. As mentioned, "Heart And Soul" is a song you could find yourself throwing on your stereo every once in a while, and its fellow single, the horizon-gazing "Brothers And Sisters", works well in getting as close to the recent Biffy Clyro material as Twin Atlantic has ever gotten, while evoking memories of the eerie "Yes, I Was Drunk" from the previous album. Meanwhile the galloping tempo and all out rock and roll of "I Am An Animal" injects much needed feelings of power and attitude into the record at track seven, and towards the end of the album, the thundering "Actions That Echo" actually sounds for once like there's actual intent behind McTrusty's often condemning lyricism. So if I was in charge over at Red Bull Records and if I was unburdened by obligations to give a fuck, I would have taken those four songs, cut the rest, put out an EP and shipped it over to to receive a solid 7½ rating.

Of course this would never fit into the likely ambitiously scheduled career trajectory of Twin Atlantic - those are just the breaks in today's merciless industry - but it has a clear consequence in "Great Divide" sounding like either the ideas weren't all that great in the writing stage, or else they've been butchered in production in a misguided attempt to dumb things down in a futile attempt to widen the band's appeal. It only goes to show however, that even the most talented band can stumble when creativity is not ultimately the reigning factor in the equation, and it leaves the "Great Divide" as the kind of tryhard rock that is too urgent to have on as background music, yet delivers too few and too soon forgotten melodic hooks when exposed to closer scrutiny. So while perhaps an adequate enough listen in the grander scope of things, the album is simultaneously a cautionary tale for bands and labels and producers, to understand the short-lived success you're in for when you attempt to forge stadium rock, instead of letting it grow naturally from some songs that actually have apparent potential before the addition of superficial pomp and bells and whistles.

Download: Heart And Soul, I Am An Animal, Brothers And Sisters, Actions That Echo
For The Fans Of: Biffy Clyro, Snow Patrol, Angels And Airwaves

Release date 08.07.2014
Red Bull Records

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