Interscope Records, 2006
REVIEW BY: Josh Allen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/11/2012
Some might compare Nine Black Alps to grunge's quintessence, Nirvana, but a more accurate description might be the usual prog rock group – think Franz Ferdinand or Interpol – with their intensity dialed up more than a few notches. Their 2006 debut, Everything Is, is anything but everything, but it does capture the post-grunge genre with a dark and astounding energy.
The quartet from Manchester, England, smashes your headphones mercilessly with track one, “Get Your Guns,” opening with heavily distorted power chords and despondently fierce lyrics from a frustrated lover, “Is there any wonder why I bother? / Hanging round to take the pain.” Ouch. The next two tracks refuse to hold back, too, particularly the multi-layered, feedback-heavy distortion amid frontman Sam Forrest's screaming lyrics in “Not Everyone.” If uber-hard rock is your thing, the first three tracks are a hell of an appetizer.
Thankfully, Nine Black Alps lets up, albeit only by a few decibels, in “Unsatisfied,” which turns out to clearly be the most well rounded track on the album. The ballad opens with a surprisingly simple but goosebump-inducing riff on solo guitar. The opening and restrained verses are the first moments of relative peace on the album, but they contrast remarkably well with the explosive chorus that features those same old power chords between protests, “Just sick and tired of all I've tried / Unsatisfied.”
Nine Black Alps tries to move beyond its boundaries with a couple of acoustic renditions in “Behind Your Eyes” and “Intermission.” While they each allow the listener to exhale a bit, they don't offer a wealth of interesting material here, though the latter plays the part more effectively, offering greater instrumental depth than the former.
Otherwise, the quartet sticks to the hard rock formula with grand results on songs like “Ironside” and “Shot Down,” with relentlessly driving percussion provided by drummer James Galley and top-notch instrumental cues from the rest of the band. It begins to feel one-dimensional towards the end of the album when you realize all you've heard are power chords, ample yelling, and at times unbearable amounts of feedback. It closes on a strong note, though, with slower-burning “Southern Cross:” mechanical minor chords again buoy one of the more solid vocal performances on the album.
While Everything Is may not satisfy those seeking an inventive assimilation of varied rock influences, it simply nails post-grunge on the head, with headbang-worthy energy and fervor on nearly every track. It rocks supreme...but that's about all it does.