Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Probably one of the most anticipated follow up albums for some time, this second album from Black Country, New Road has had the wind taken out of its sails somewhat with the news of the amicable, yet sudden departure of frontman Isaac Wood. While the debut felt like a collection of whatever songs the band had in their repertoire, this collection is more unified. It feels a bit like one long song, albeit one with very prevalent wind instruments running through it. After a brief intro, Chaos Space Marine is like the album mission statement: a kind of chaotic, danceable mess. Here and on other tracks, Wood concentrates more on singing than the bawling from their debut. Concorde is one of the album’s highlights, building to a pleasing crescendo with great guitar work. Bread Song begins slow as molasses, like muted Slint, but then speeds up halfway through to great effect. Elsewhere, Good WIll Hunting stomps along happily without making a huge impression while Haldern alternates between subtle, quiet passages of music and more forceful parts.
After Mark’s Theme, a brief woodwind instrumental interlude, the album culminates with three tracks over half an hour. The Place Where He Inserted The Blade mixes moments of conventional, classic rock with busy, jerky post-punk. The nine-minute Snow Globes features slow metronomic guitars building gradually with brass, wind instruments, rattling drums, violins and piano. This would probably have been a good place to stop, but they round off the album with the longest track, the 13-minute Basketball Shoes. As you might expect, it’s a bit of a journey, throwing in slow builds, jazz interludes and crashing rocky crescendos.
It feels like there’s even more going on in these songs than on the debut. The album is less post-rock than the debut, more of its own thing. A thing that can at times sound baffling and hard to get your head around, yet at the same time, it’s not offputting, there’s enough there to entice you back. It remains to be seen where the departure of Isaac Wood leaves them, the other members intend to carry but I suspect it will be a very different kind of band.