Propagandhi – ‘Victory Lap’ - (Epitaph) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Phil Cooper   
Monday, 25 September 2017 04:00

PropaghandiFerociously charged political commentators Propagandhi have returned to deliver their latest album after five years since ‘Failed States’.  There’s been highs and lows for the band within that time frame with personal losses and families growing.  There has also been a change in the make-up of the band with guitarist David Guillas departing after nearly a decade with them and Sulynn Hago stepping up after a hotly contested audition phase.  Hago brings with her a wealth of experience and guitar talent that looks set to compliment the sound and style of Propagandhi.  In a world where political leanings and cultural climate appear to be in a turbulent mixing pot poised to boil over, the time is certainly right for a punk/politically edged rock sound to take charge of the airwaves once again to provide a social commentary complimented by distorted guitar.

 

The title track kicks off the album - and kicks off is the operative term as the frantic, chopped guitar riffs provides the intro that instantly takes charge of the listener’s ears.  Vocally there is still the punchy sound that fans of the band will be familiar with, however bassist Todd Kowalski’s comes across as slightly lower in register since previous recordings. This reportedly is due to some vocal coaching to repair some of damage done from his days of octave splitting heights. Hago’s guitar playing is certainly a credit to the overall sound of the band as the riffs and lead lines are executed with precision and link in with Chris Hannah’s own playing. There’s no doubt that she has fitted in with the tight unit.

 

‘Cop Just Out Of Frame’ is a raucous track that will certainly open up the pit at a live show.  With a stop/start structure and intense staccato guitar riffs complemented by the power house drumming of Jord Samolesky. ‘When All Your Fears Collide’ opens with a thunderous combination of guitar and drums before rising and falling between controlled picked guitar lines and frantic full band power.  It is a track that manages to focus on the encompassing theme of existential crisis that could have the potential to become self-absorbed and detach from the listener.  Fortunately, due to the relatable nature of writer Kowalski there is an honesty within the lyrics.  This is coupled with the fact that ‘…Fears Collide’ is one of the most sonically interesting tracks on the album as it moves between different textures and tempos never seeming to stay in one singular structural order. It carries a weighty punch within the album.

 

‘Lower Order (A Good Laugh)’ offers a tamer tempo than other tracks on the album and through its use of modulation and catchy guitar hooks provides a sound that could fit on a radio friendly playlist. This is testament to the song-writing talent that is contained within the band as they can create a track that offers a very approachable radio sound, yet lyrically it can tackle issues that are poignant, hard hitting and relevant to today’s cultural climate. ‘Nigredo’ and album closer ‘Adventure In Zoochosis’ are also prime examples of this.  The former has a heavier tone both musically and lyrically with the words touching upon the ideas of loss and existentialist meaning. The music provides a sonically complimentary backdrop to these thoughts yet still manages to be delivered in a powerful riff laced catchy way. ‘Adventure In Zoochosis’ provides an upbeat melody that serves as a juxtaposition to the samples of President Trump sound bites whereas the samples of children playing right at the beginning are an audio clue to the ideas of family – and, importantly, how to build and provide for an unknown future for one’s children - contained within the lyrics. Importantly, how to build and provide for an unknown future for one’s children.

 

 

I first remember hearing Propagandhi 15 years ago at a schoolfriend’s house who had older brothers that were going to see them live.  I can recall being blown away with the power and intensity that they showed on the albums and how they captured a raw aggressiveness and translated it to the listener. Thirty-one years is a long time for a band to be together, albeit with some line-up changes, and continue to produce a sound that can be considered fresh and relevant. Throughout their career Propagandhi have grown and evolved seeing their raw punk sound develop into a heavier more polished rock/metal style.  With that said, it is clear from this latest offering that they have lost none of the politically and culturally sharp musings that provides them with their trademark heavy weight lyrical punch. It is also clear that their sound musically has not lost any power over the years.  It is obvious that there is very much a necessity in today’s world for music that can provide the commentaries on display in ‘Victory Lap’. These twelve tracks serve to remind the listener with what is important in life whilst simultaneously proving that it is no bad thing to trust in the power of a loud guitar and powerful rock and roll.

 

‘Victory Lap’ is released on Friday (29 September). You can get your copy HERE.

 

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