originally posted on Thursday, 25 April 2013
Kansas City rock outfit Alice Sweet Alice has been compared to a few artists since they started recording music. Artists such as Evanescence and Garbage have been mentioned in the same sentence as them rather frequently. Understandably they have a uniquely dark style of an alternative rock sound, which is complimented by the spooky yet smooth vocal styling of female singer Ali Kat, whom I personally would compare to that of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, only without the distinctive lilting style of singing that Dolores has. What is important is that ASA do in fact have their own identity, which has been showcased on three independently released albums, from 2008’s First Light to 2009’s Moloko & Ultraviolence, and their most recent release, 2011’s Mandala.
The years have seen the band solidify their sound, and their technique as musicians, though they have always stayed true to their style. Mandala displays exactly what great patience and musicality can do for a band, shaving away most of the showy electronic effects and concentrating rather on a more simple keyboard/guitar driven rock band. This time simplifying the production down to just seven songs; this makes the album easier to savour.
The album starts off with 21st Century Slavery; a track that comes out swinging with its heavy guitar and drum sound and addictive and evil sounding bass riff. Ali’s attitude in the delivery of her vocals on this song are exemplary to give its listener an idea of what they are in for as the album progresses.Falling Under, heard later on the album, has the same feel to it with a slightly less evil sounding, but very similar pace and the addition of some piano. Ali’s vocals hit their pinnacle on this song.
Burden of Truth brings in a more familiar keyboard sound for fans of the band, and slows the pace down to give the listener a better idea of their capabilities as musicians. With the exception of the songs awesome ending, which picks up heavily compared to the rest of the song, this song shows the band at their comfort level of slow and dark alternative rock.
The album succeeds in having very different styles for the most part on each song, which the listener will notice by the time they get to Full Circle. This track mixes the familiar dark sound of the band with an almost sleazy more free style nature, particularly in its guitar driven chorus, which comes delightfully unexpected. The consistent bass riff playing throughout helps with the attitude that the song gives; very serious but almost playful and slick. The change in song styles continues on Undone as well. This time the song is a beautiful piano ballad throughout with a more than appropriately placed string section playing in the background.
3 Tides finally brings a voice to the bass playing that we’ve been hearing until this point in the album. Sung by bassist Scott Martinez, this song is the longest song on the album, clocking in at 6:48. The song has an evil sound, similar to that of 21st Century Slavery, only heavily slowed down. This song is the most effect heavy song, with very apparent keyboard/synthesizer sounds heard throughout. Unlike some of their earlier stuff, however, these sounds don’t take away from the feel of the song, but instead ride with the slow scared feeling that it gives its listener. The much improved vocals of Scott compared to earlier recordings by the band should also be strongly noted for this song.
The album ends on a heavier note (compared to the rest of the album). Broken Mirror goes back and forth between pace and style, some points being an innocent piano rock song, then switching to some of the most distorted guitar sounds heard on the entire album, then switching to a chorus that could compete with any modern alternative rock song released. This song shows the musicianship of the band at its highest mark, both in how they can put together a great song and play superbly and complement each other throughout the changes of pace.
Mandala is obviously the kind of album that Alice Sweet Alice has wanted to release since their inception. The band’s sound has elevated to new heights, bringing them closer and closer to having a sole identity which would make them completely incomparable to any other band. The bands obvious improvement from album to album shows certain insurance that their next album (which comes out in may) will propel them to even greater heights.
“Burden of Truth” – Undoubtedly the most catchy song on the album. The electric piano intro will put chills down anyone’s spine, and the transition from the slow subtle introduction in to the hooky band driven chorus make this a true display of some obvious mature song writing skills. The songs sound has a familiar almost 80’s sound to it, but even if that goes unnoticed, this song is still sure to appeal to its listeners.
7.5 (Out of 10)
|“21st Century Slavery”||3:26|
|“Burden of Truth”||4:26|