ALBUM REVIEW: Young Guns – Echoes

It feels just like yesterday that Young Guns released their third studio album Ones and Zeroesor rather just last year as the band put out the album in early June of last year. Ones and Zeroes was an album influenced by mainstream alternative rock trends as gritty guitar riffs were traded in for synth-laden guitar melodies and rousing choruses. It allowed the band to demonstrate a different side of their music – one rooted in anthemic crowd-pleasers as opposed to the traditional brooding and gritty alternative rock songs that dominated their first two albums – especially their sophomore album Bones.

15 months down the line and the band has released Echoes – their fourth studio album. It is also their first album with their new drummer Chris Kamrada who replaced previous drummer Ben Jolliffe at the start of this year – and put to light the fact that Young Guns have gone through a lot of drummers in the course of their career. Rapidly releasing a new album completely defies Young Guns’s normal MO of waiting two to three years to release new music. Such haste can actually be quite worrying as rock bands are not well-versed in the art of rapidly writing and releasing new music. This can often result in sub-par music.

However, this is not the case with Echoes. It opens on the blindingly brilliant “Bulletproof”- a gritty burst of brooding aggression and peppy choruses that are designed for stadiums to sing them right back at the band. The song immediately suggests that the band are not planning on introducing any new elements to their music and that they are rather drawing on everything they learned from Bones and Ones and Zeroes to create brooding and aggressive songs that have just enough of  pop bounce to them for them to continue to get radio play all across the world. It is a smart move that doesn’t sacrifice artistic integrity for the sake of mainstream appeal, but rather finds a brilliant comprise between the two with chunky and aggressive guitar riffs thrown next to intricate synth melodies and rousing sing-along choruses. This compromise can be seen on songs like “Careful What You Wish For” where punchy guitar riffs find themselves juxtaposed to percussion elements that sound like handclaps and a simple chorus that will be stuck in your head for days.

“Mad World” sees the band immersing themselves in the gritty alternative rock world from which they emerged as blistering guitar riffs power themselves alongside Gustav Wood’s restrained screams. An occasional shimmer of synth emerges to temper the aggression of the song, but the synth tones only serve to highlight the aggressive nature of the song as Wood delivers vicious lyrics that criticise the state of the world. This is followed by “Awakening” which starts off with slow atmospheric synth and percussion before giving away to a cacophony of guitars and aggressive vocals that quickly fade back into synth tones. “Awakening” is one of the strongest songs on the album with its intelligent, while self-depreciating, lyrics and genre-bending sense of musical progression. If I had to pick a song that would define the future of Young Guns’s sound – it would be this one.

The latter half of the album remains as strong as the first half with rousing alternative rock anthems like “Living In A Dream Is So Easy”, but it is the dual combo of “Mercury In Retrograde” and “Paradise” that are the highlights of this half of the album. “Mercury In Retrograde” sees the band dabbling in some heavy pop rock influences, but it is just such a flawless song in terms of songwriting, production and sheer progression as fluttering synth tones and percussion give way to intricate guitar riffs. In many ways, it is a powerful ballad that is contrasted by “Paradise” – a piano-laden ballad that shows Young Guns emotional side with Wood’s vocals hitting powerful high notes.

Echoes is a truly tremendous album and one that I was not expecting to see so soon from Young Guns. I was expecting to continue with the sound established in Ones and Zeroes, but Echoes sees them diverting completely from that path while merely adopting the best elements of the album and fusing it with what they have always done best: loud, punchy alternative rock. Echoes is a brilliant hybrid of synth-laden alternative rock and gritty hard rock, and one that should define the future of rock music in my personal opinion.



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