Appear highbrow without trying by reading…
This debut full length offering from Belfast’s More Than Conquerors, is a record which, had it been released while I was in my late teens, would no doubt have been devoured effortlessly, in much the same vein a starving lion would an antelope! However without wanting to sound too much like an old fuddy-duddy here, but with Everything I’ve Learnt, this young Belfast four piece haven’t exactly brought anything new to the post-hardcore/rock table.
Having been an avid reader of Rock Sound, Kerrang! and Metal Hammer back in the day, it’s pretty obvious that albums by the likes of Hundred Reasons, Idlewild, Kerbdog and early-era Biffy Clyro, were on constant rotation, when these guys were growing up. These aforementioned groups were ones, that quite rightly at the time, had their moment in the spotlight. Apart from Biffy Clyro, who have progressed quite radically, to enter the realms of stadium rock. It’s just that at times, it feels as though More Than Conquerors are pinning their youthful colours to the one mast, which to me sits a little too close for comfort.
That is not to say, that this is a weak effort, from this biblically inspired group – their name originates from a quote, within all practicing christian’s favourite holy book. Everything I’ve Learnt contains countless pulverising guitar riffs, from Danny Ball; soaring, yet perhaps overly polished sounding, vocals from Kris Platt – who also adds a second bite to their guitar armoury – and finally, the record quite clearly highlights, they’ve got an incredibly tight rhythm section, in Jamie Neish; drums and Danny Morton; bass.
The album opens with the sound of bone crunching guitars and pounding drums, on the emotionally driven “All That We Can”, which rather aptly accompany Platt’s hometown tinted vocals. The pace picks up a notch with first single “Pits Of Old”, which includes high octane melodies and catchy – albeit dirty and fuzzy sounding – hooks throughout, where important life questions sought to to be answered.
With the band having a strong Christian upbringing, nods to faith and religious imagery appear throughout the record. During “Smoke, Trees, Lungs, Knees”, which ends in a fusion of thunderous guitars, images from the Bible arise, as Platt sings; ‘you found my love in the stream….you run inside of the church….you can’t control the sea’. The idea of questioning one’s belief is clear throughout the anthem like “Jaw”, in which Platt ponders; ‘what if there’s no heaven or hell? what if we all die young?’ Finally the combination of the frontman’s vocals, with that of his bandmate’s cacophonous intensity, integrate seamlessly in “When The Well Runs Dry”, where personal turmoil rises to the surface; ‘now I only talk to God when there’s something I need’.
The stripped back sound of “Bring Me To The Blood Bank”, removes you from the ferocity of what came before, and allows for Platt’s vocals to take centre stage. With that, I just mean he doesn’t have to vie for the right to be heard, over his bandmate’s regular muscular aggression.
With this being a debut album, there was always a chance that More Than Conquerors could run out of steam at a certain junction, or that the term filler would come into play, and from track eight “Temper”, to final number “Hearth & Home”, those boxes have been well and truly ticked. The fact that the guys have found a formula that seems to work for them, is by no means a negative, but it starts to get harder to differentiate one song from another. That view can be seen as somewhat harsh, especially considering this is the first record from a band still in its infancy.
However those last four songs – which also include “Try Antlers” and “Six Weeks” – seem to pass you by, and just don’t have the same grab-you-by-the-balls zest, that makes the first half of this record appealing. There is no doubt these guys can go from strength to strength in the future, but this can only materialise if they expand their musical horizons, and stop relying on their influences for guidance.
Review by Conor Callanan, Conor writes gig/ album reviews on Cracking Vinyl.