The Virginmarys conceive The Northern Sun Sessions

The town of Macclesfield in Cheshire is noted for being the largest producer of finished silk in the world and had over seventy silk mills; it’s also the town of origin for The Virginmarys. Silken isn’t the adjective this band however; if I had to make a fabric based analogy I would have to go for a lycra and denim blend! Formed in 2009 and now down to a two-piece band with Ally Dickaty taking bass responsibility as well as lead and vocals, they had significant success with their debut album, King Of Conflict. Further success followed with their second, Divides, and a couple of EPs too. Now they are set to release their third full-length album called Northern Sun Sessions. The PR photos of the band show the two of them in those cardboard 3D glasses…a glance at the artwork on the new album suggests that these will be needed to view it in its full glory…the good news is that if you order the physical release, then you get a free pair of “Anaglyph 3D glasses” which should sort that out.

Having listened to their first album purely on the strength of Toby Jepson’s involvement as producer, I was pleasantly surprised by their raw approach and how they used punk, rock and blues in their sound. Although they were a bit too indie for me, they still made a good noise. This latest album, I think due in part to the fact that there are now only two of them, sees their sound evolving into more rock, less indie, based while keeping that raw power they’ve always displayed.

It opens with Look Out For My Brother and, after a confused blast of sound, the song settles into a very effective rock song with an engaging riff and plenty of “oh,oh.ohs” to sing along to. Catchy and effective it certainly is and it would probably fare well as a single. SOS4UNI is the strange title of the next one…it actually stands for SOS for you and I and is essentially a heavy punk song with hints of Therapy? and bands of that ilk and era. Eye For An Eye is so simple and comprises only two chords that I can discern and yet it has an appeal in the way that the rhythm gets to you and the backing, despite the two chords, is still clever and complex. For The Two Of Us has a brilliant drum track with the bass and snare used very effectively. It is my highlight because of its structure and more restrained vocal and a neat, echoed guitar solo and it all comes together as a damn good heavy rock song. Blind Lead The Blind is a slow starter with just a voice and light guitar before it turns into another rocker but with sections of almost proggish effects, before it crescendos on some great guitar patterns. Get Me Back home has a slide guitar opening and rhythm that evokes the blues and the continuing subtle slide in the background is well thought out. If Ally had stayed on the verses vocal register and eschewed his trademark screaming vocal style on the chorus, this would have been a magnificent heavy blues; it is still good though. The sort of title track, Northern Sun, starts off well with guitar and vocals painting pictures and then more imaginative drumming from Danny, but it loses direction a bit as the sound blurs and confuses this listeners ears at least. Wanna Be Free again has brilliant drum patterns and has to be a potential single with its catchiness and (thank you!) a real guitar solo. Flags is up next and has some inspired and heartrending lyrics. This has a lovely structure behind the verses and is the most expansive and revealing song on the album. Step Up is the Clash playing the Foos…apologies if that suggestion seems to be Virgin on the ridiculous but it is that sort of heavy punk blend. Final track, All Fall Down, is close to my favourite with its wide-ranging commentary in the lyrics and the equally wide-ranging instrumentation, as it fits in all of the genres I mentioned but with panache.

Although this is not my preferred take on rock, it is undeniable that these two guys have a style and attack that is incendiary and many of the tracks are way better than some of their more famous counterparts are pushing out. If you liked their earlier stuff, you will like this one even more. The fresh approach to writing, recording and producing delivers a solid, quality album with enough light and shade to make it accessible to most rockers out there.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Look Out For My Brother
  2. SOS4UNI
  3. Eye For An Eye
  4. For The Two Of Us
  5. Blind Lead The Blind
  6. Get Me Back Home
  7. Northern Sun
  8. Wanna Be Free
  9. Flags
  10. Step Up
  11. All Fall Down

Musicians:
Ally Dickaty – Vocals / Guitars
Danny Dolan – Drums/Percussion

Recorded and engineered by Ally Dickaty at Preach Studios and Mark Winterburn at Edge Studios

Tour Dates:
21 Oct – WAKEFIELD, Oxjam
20 Nov – BRISTOL, The Louisiana
21 Nov – LONDON, Hoxton Square B&K
22 Nov – LEEDS, Brudenell Social
24 Nov – MANCHESTER, Club Academy
28 Nov – GLASGOW, Stereo

 

The Virginmarys conceive The Northern Sun Sessions

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