ALBUM REVIEW: Twin Atlantic – GLA (Red Bull Records)

Twin Atlantic had a rather slow-burning start to their career. The first two albums released by the Scottish alternative rock outfit perked the ears of major British publications and earned them supporting slots for artists like Blink 182, but besides that – the Scottish rock outfit existed on the fringes of the major alternative rock community. The band only received mainstream attention when they released The Great Divide in 2014 – a powerhouse of an album jam-packed with radio-ready alternative rock anthems. It was an album that pushed them away from their scrappy punk meets alternative rock roots, but it provided them with some much-deserved mainstream recognition. It also established itself as an album that would be incredibly difficult to top in terms of success and sheer sonic landscape, but the band manages to top it so effortlessly with GLA – their fourth studio album.

GLA, in the words of the band, is the rock album they have always wanted to create and from the very beginning it is easy to see why they say that. “Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator” opens the album with a belligerent burst of scrappy punk rock tempered by the swooping melodic elements of alternative rock. Snarling licks of guitar wraps themselves around a fierce drumbeat that stands in dramatic support to Sam McTrusty’s drawling and almost screeching vocals that are soaked with the melodic aggression of a Scottish accent. It is quite an energetic start to the album that harks back to the days where Twin Atlantic occasionally experimented with elements from post-hardcore and punk rock.

GLA does not always keep to the belligerent energy established by “Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator” which leads straight into the fierce alternative rock anthem that is lead single “No Sleep”, but that is what makes the album so brilliant. It is an ever-shifting sonic landscape that pays homage to Twin Atlantic’s hometown of Glasgow. The general consensus regarding Glasgow is that it is a place consumed by rivalry and danger, but also one imbued with a sense of passion and fear. Twin Atlantic manages to reflect all of these traits in their album from a lyrical and musical point.

“Valhalla”, as the name suggests, draws influence from the rivalry and danger that surrounds Glasgow but tackles in a much less belligerent and aggressive fashion than they did on the opening songs. Brooding synth tones creep into the sonic landscape alongside grungy bass riffs and intricate guitar work that give way to bursts of snarling guitar riffs and anthemic choruses. In some ways, the song is an homage to the grittiness of the city while also relishing in the glorification of this supposedly dangerous lifestyle. The persistent use of distorted and gritty bass riffs beefs up Twin Atlantic’s alternative rock sound. It gives the band a much meaner and aggressive sound. This is further supported by frantic bursts of guitar and fierce drum work. Songs that would have probably been clean-cut alternative rock anthems are turned into seething masses of brooding aggression. It shows a different side to Twin Atlantic and one that allows them to surpass anything they’ve ever done before.

However, Twin Atlantic’s true brilliance comes in the form of their slower and less aggressive songs. Songs that are meant to reflect the passion and fear imbued within Glasgow. For instance, “Whispers” features Twin Atlantic’s signature progression from a slow main verse to anthemic choruses. McTrusty’s lyrics speak of the pain and loss experienced when losing a loved one but manages to turn it into a song that questions the existence of a higher power. This isn’t even the best ballad on the album, but it is still an incredibly powerful one.

No, the best ballad on the album is found right at the end and stands in beautiful contrast to the opening of the album. “Mothertongue”, in my personal opinion, is the best song on the entire album. It opens with crisp, clear guitar riffs that back McTrusty’s soaring vocals as he sings about finding one’s identity and taking pride in one’s hometown. The entire song rarely departs from the same series of guitar chords, but it is McTrusty’s vocal delivery and emotive lyrics that dominate the entire song and give the song its emotional intensity.

To put it loosely, Twin Atlantic have surpassed every standard set by The Great Divide. GLA is a relentless fusion of the belligerent energy of scrappy punk rock and the soaring intensity of alternative rock. This an album that could potentially define a new era of rock music.

9/10

CONTEST: We are giving away two spots to an  Exclusive Twin Atlantic GLA Album listening session at Red Bull Studios in Cape Town on Tuesday September 13th at 18h00. To enter, just comment below with the answer to this question: which song do we think is the best on GLA?

1 Comment

  1. Gideon Kretschmer

    September 9, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Your favorite song on GLA is mothertongue

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