It’s nearly a year ago since New Party Army appeared for the first time, unannounced on Facebook. With no band line-up declared and just their debut song, One Day shared. However, it didn’t take too long to work out that it NPA were in some way connected to the organisers of the Live In Barnsley music festival, when the song’s lyrics were adopted as their motto. Turns out New Party Army is indeed the solo project of former Cry frontman and LIB organiser, Dave Pearsal. Described as being influenced by Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Gary Numan, Prodigy etc; I was hoping for something which sounded similar to any of those, but in fact they didn’t, instead One Day sounded under-produced, almost demo-like.
Two more tracks followed throughout the year; Ametryptaline (sic) with its schizophrenic synth tics, whose only lyrics being the song title, growled out over two and a half minutes. This was a step up in terms of both production and over-all achievement. While still sounding nothing like those influences, it reeked of Smell of Rain era Mortiis (a definite good thing).
Next up was Violence; crackling with a Kraftwerk-like snap, a synthetic wash ripped right from The Terminator and a guitar grinding over the top of it all. ‘Violence is the voice of the voiceless’ is again, the sole repeated lyric. It sounds great, with its sample of JFK from 1962. However, reigning back on the lyrics like that being my only real gripe about these releases. I decided to hold back on any reviews until the album arrived.
And here it is. Songs of Pain and Absolution is New Party Army’s debut album. It includes the three previously mentioned songs – albeit as slightly different versions – along with eight other slabs of self-proclaimed ‘Industrial Electro-Metal’.
The album opens with Malevolent Song, which is the first of a couple of great tracks on offer. It’s a surprise after being now familiar with the earlier releases. With a much heavier sound, consisting of durgey synth bass and a distorted growl of a vocal – I like this much more than say Ametryptaline, which follows straight up. And despite the repeated lyric of ‘set me free’, the whole thing is quite lo-fi and simple, and it works a treat.
Next up, Save Me is built around a guitar riff a little reminiscent of Sweet Dream (Are Made of This) and a vocal which sounds snide and nasty. Not bad at all, but crikey, is that bongos I hear somewhere in the mix? Signs of the Right is a little more of the same, but Chalk Line is something totally unexpected. Aside from the faux accent, a gentle acoustic guitar and piano serenades, while a simple distorted riff flies overhead. I half expect that any minute, the drum machine’s going to come barging in, but luckily it doesn’t – a pleasant change of pace and another highlight.
Tell Me The Truth is another unexpected turn. Spoken word with a great string section stabbing out the rhythm – here Pearsal sounds like a mix of stalker and anarchist, mixing the political with horror.
Are Friends Electric changes the pace again and shows the structure and lyrics I yearned for. However, they are of course Gary Numan’s. New Party Army’s version is stripped back and slowed down to almost Vienna pace, with the lyrics spoken rather than sung.
Strange Town (an ode to Barnsley maybe?) starts of sounding disjointed with the different elements coming together mid-way, riding along brilliantly.
The closing song Psycho features a Doors like keyboard motif throughout and the resulting sound does actually sound like it could slot straight into the Darken My Fire: A Gothic Tribute to The Doors album – very Electric Hellfire Club.
It’s hard to tell what the album is all about. Lyrics are so sparse that it is hard to identify whether it is a personal musing or a political stance. Even though there are sociopolitical references throughout, they are so brief, it comes across more like punk sloganeering. In fact the name New Party Army comes from a lyric by The Clash, rather than the gothic New Model Army.
What politics there are, masquerades behind gothic horror; two things that very rarely mix. And while I’d love to hear more complex lyrics and a more definitive narrative, the reigning back on lyrics and the repetition of the few that exist, comes from a knowning decision made by Pearsal. His emphasis here is on atmosphere. The few snap-shots of vocals there are, often sounds like they have been ripped right from the bowels of a horror flick.
Though the forced accents and growls aren’t for me, there is clearly a lot of experimentation going on here too, and after being in a ‘party rock’ band for God knows how long, why not.
In the end, Songs of Pain & Absolution is an interesting and unexpected listening experience and it will be even more so, to see how this comes across in a live environment. I enjoyed New Party Army much more than I did Cry. What Dave Pearsal/New Party Army have produced here is a quality dark electro album which straddles the line between gothic and punk.