The first point I wish to high light about Raise Ravens, the second album in 14 months from John Knox Sex Club, is that the album is made completely of new material.
Being familiar with their live shows I was expecting some of the songs such as ‘The Witness’ to be featured. However, Ravens from the first listen comes across as a collection of focused post-Blud Rins Cauld songs from a cemented six-piece.
This collective conscience serves the record well as the confidence of the unit allows them to pull off some manoeuvres that could, in lesser hands, fail terribly.
An admirable fact that the band recorded the full LP in one or two live sessions, a sign that the band, or the captain of the good ship John Knox, knows currently the strengths of the band lie in the power of the live performance.
First track ‘Kiss the Dirt’ coming under just shy of 13 minutes, is a daunting first track, the minimal and slow burning beginning, in a post rocky Godspeed gear, the band serves as the device that projects the vocals to the front of the listener’s attention.
In the latter half of the song the vocals act as a conductor to the band as they escalate to, I promised I would not say this but, Led Zeppelin style grooves and flirt with Plant like imagery: “Cairo where the roots become the stalks”.
‘Stalks’ does sound like stars to be fair, the timbre of the single violin and muscular bass tone are what steers the song away from the classic rock template and the crashing final lap sees a slight hardcore influenced D-beat (I use the term D-beat in the loosest possible way).
This coupled with the very masochistic line of “I kiss the dirt beneath your feet” howled by Sean “Red Snapper” Cummings and Jill O’Sullivan the very particular high is reached.
By letting this moment flood your ears you will find a joint understanding of what JKSC are aiming for.
They come so close to reaching it I find myself lifting my arms up in an attempt to push them a little closer to Valhalla. This holding back, whether it be limitation or choice, adds to the taunting involving aspect of the song.
‘Above Us The Waves’ shakes off the bombast and introduces a more introverted cosy mood, matched musically and lyrically.
This track features the best vocal on the album, partly down to the limited range and time the repetition of the phrase allows.
The restraint is the antidote for the Cave preacher vocal style that is adopted on the rest of the album.
The pop hook is hit home and bleeds in to the next track, the instrumental ‘Sweet Sing The Rails Go Leave Go Leave’.
The air sound that is behind the arrangement and the placing of the song in context of what has came before will make you feel that you are listening to a classic album on some shinny black vinyl.
Rory Anderson (lead guitar)
This warm happy feeling is ripped away by the start of ‘The Neighbours’, be warned it does have a slight Kings of Leon style picking guitar start.
A sense of a symmetrical structure hinders this from flowing as well as the other tracks do. The digitalisation of a traditional song is ‘Katie Cruel’, the focus of the acoustic again reminds one of ‘Gallows Pole’ from Led Zeppelin III.
Thankfully Ravens ends on a high, ‘The Thaw’. This more so than the previous five tracks references certain sonic ideas that were used on BRC.
Again having the defined bass more in focus does wonders for the band, it demonstrates how far they have came in 12 months and what a new more expressive bassist (I shudder as I re read those two words together) brings.
The track speeds up to a point of post-hardcore indie rock, the tempo shift does not go a miss. If anything JKSC would benefit from more moments like this.
They are more than able to produce speedy clattering noise, see ‘The Hawk’ on their live EP CD. All members can channel the best of the MC5 when they want to.
To wrap this up Raise Ravens is a well-paced long player, heavily recommended, by demonstrating their abilities and awareness progress is assured, yet with so many different directions hinted at only the band themselves know, or maybe they don’t, where the next port of call is for record number three.
If they kick out a double album next I wouldn’t be surprised, but I think Physical Graffiti was Zeppelin’s 5th album.
Words: Gayham Crisps