Concrete Ships – In Observance


Artist: Concrete Ships

Album: In Observance

Label: Trepanation Recordings

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Country: United Kingdom

Hailing from the northern English city of Lincoln, Concrete Ships are one of those stripped down trios who manage to sound vastly bigger than their component parts would suggest. Consisting of bassist/vocalist Chris Thompson, guitarist Joe Dickinson and drummer Jamie Batt, they have previously released just one self-titled EP back in 2018. In Observance is a definite step up not just in the song-writing and production, but also the sonic scope which Concrete Ships embrace. The sound throughout the record is quite brilliant, with every instrument sounding individually massive but never out of balance with each other.

The album leaves no subtlety in it’s introduction, kicking the door down with the opening high-octane riffs of Flotilla. In the verses the guitars drop into static, while the drums persistently hammer away and the vocals half-scream half-sing, reminding me of noisy punk band Pissed Jeans. A Record Of Ancient Matters introduces a spiky yet heavy riff that brings to mind Converge’s more post-punk influenced tracks. Things eventually drop down into a quieter passage led by an intermittent bass line and a slightly gothic baritone vocal delivery reminiscent of Bauhaus. After a while it starts to build again with walls of harsh vocals and psychedelic guitars, and it’s at this point where the multi-faceted nature of Concrete Ships’ sound really becomes clear. The band then take us into a brilliant final section with a riff that sounds like a cross between Doctor Hook and Ceremony before the whole thing collapses in on itself in a flurry of cathartic noise.

Clouds is the most obviously catchy track on the record. It opens with a riff that sounds like High On Fire covering Editors, and although the whole thing has a disconcerting vibe to it there are some fabulous hooks that drive this track forward. The middle however section takes us on a complete tangent, moving into an Amputechture era Mars Volta style jam full of mystical free jazz guitars that pierce through the sultry bass line. It eventually explodes into a conglomeration of noise and screams before finishing on the hook, and after such intensity it’s nice to have the mesmeric two minute interlude Observe to break things up.

Vibration White Finger is a much less vociferous affair, crafted around a repetitive bass and drum stomp, the vocals reverberating in the background while a few disturbing guitar melodies wander in and out. After a few minutes though it moves up a gear into a fierce whirlpool of noisey layers, eventually subsiding back into the stomping movement and slowly calming down as dots of creepy synths wash over into the conclusion. The final track We Never Were draws you in with several minutes of drones, but once it gets going it transforms into an astonishingly brutal swathe of warped melodies. The verses are pretty enigmatic, while the chorus hook in particularly reminds me of the dark indie of Grave Pleasures. For the final movement we’re taken back to the loudest moments of the album, the bass and drums punching together in perfect unison while the guitars writhe into a wretched ball of fury and feedback.

In Observance is one of those albums which is so carefully crafted and detailed that it leaves you wondering just how much potential the band have if this is only their debut album. Concrete Ships are clearly a band with a wealth of well-rounded ideas and they possess the skills to make them come to life in a magnificent way. While I think the song-writing on the second half of the album lacks a little of the coerciveness of the first half, that is an improvement that will surely come in time. In Observance is a phenomenal first album, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best underground rock albums of the year.

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