Classic rock seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence as of late and, if this continues, then Welsh four-piece Lethargy are definitely in the running for a piece of the action with their second full length, 'Purification.'
Album opener 'Stealth' is a poised and polished statement of intent, its dark chug overlaid with plenty of classy riffing and a cocksure, rock and roll swagger.
'Stealth's strongest selling point and, indeed, the thing that really stands out over the course of the album, are the vocals. Lethargy employ three-part vocal harmonies, with guitarists Phil Humphreys and Andrew Hunt, and bassist Marc T Jones all sharing vocal duties. They're all up to the mark, but it's bassist Jones' voice that really shines through. On this track, his vocals are so good that they reverberate powerfully despite being laid relatively low in the mix.
'Stealth' is a very classy track, but it doesn't quite leap out and grab the listener, favouring understatedly cool hooks over any showy aggressiveness.
Thankfully, this isn't the case with second track 'Innocence Serene,' as the urgent vocals put an edge on Lethargy's chugging riffs. Whereas 'Stealth' is content to play out at one level, 'Innocence Serene's vocals are forever grasping after those attention-grabbing high notes.
For 'Innocence Serene,' Lethargy slow the beat right down, which makes the song sound far heavier than it actually is. This is a lumbering, vocally-arresting rock song, with the obligatory, air guitar-friendly solo.
Third track, 'A Lost Adoration' is even better. The verses are still all about the chuggy guitar line, but they're far more energetic, and the choruses are bordering on frenzied, with rushing riffs and driving vocals sweeping the listener into a headlong plunge.
But, as ever, where Lethargy really excel is vocally. Jones' voice really is jaw-dropping, and it's his contributions that put a dramatic and unique edge on 'A Lost Adoration's tight, focused but actually not-that-unremarkable classic rock stylings. The bridge section is a particularly dramatic highlight, and ensures you won't be forgetting this song in a hurry.
'Bleachin' Bones' is the other song where Lethargy break out of their classy, poised confides to deliver something a little more lively. It doesn't quite match the headrush of 'A Lost Adoration,' but it does prove Lethargy aren't a one-trick pony.
'Ideal Orphans' is one of 'Purification's weaker offerings. Interestingly, the instrumental beginning and end-sections are the stand out moments, as Lethargy employ whining slide-guitar to very unusual and attention-grabbing effect, before they break into ramshackle riffs that sound as though they might judder to a halt at any moment.
The rest of the song can't really live up to the flashes of instrumental inspiration it's sandwiched between. It's those beginning and end thirty seconds that'll have you coming back for more.
'14:9' and 'Inertia' are pretty much 'Ideal Orphans,' but without the great instrumental beginning and end-sections. On '14:9,' Lethargy throw up a solid wall of sound, laced with deeper, grinding guitar, and with squealing chords clawing their way out of '14:9's dense sound. On 'Inertia,' the bass-driven rhythms perfectly compliment the more gravelly vocals, and the crackly riffs put a grunge slant on Lethargy's classic rock sound.
They're both technically masterful and well put-together songs, and there's nothing particularly wrong with them; they're just missing that one great hook that'll make the listener sit up and take notice.
The broody, politically-infused 'Convenient Ignorant Amnesia' puts Jones once more at the vocal helm, with predictably breathtaking results. This song's brief forays into three-part vocal harmonies add depth and texture, but you'll wish Lethargy would let Jones take the vocal lead, like he is here, more often. His vocals take the chorus ever higher, until it sounds absolutely massive, and his end-section holler of "lay down, lay down, lay" sound impossibly rich and resonating. Heads and shoulders above the rest of the album.
'I See Man's End In His Construction' is a song of two halves. The verses of gloomy three-part vocal harmonies are spine-tingling, but their predictable rhythms do begin to feel monotonous. However, the choruses take those richly layered three-part vocals and adds a tormented edge as they soar and ricochet off one another against a backdrop of ponderous drumbeats. Here, Lethargy sound nothing short of epic.
The bridge section builds on 'I See Man's End In His Construction's cinematic slant, dropping slabs of serrated guitar across which Lethargy unfurl some classy, wailing guitar lines.
Lethargy again make a bid for a more epic sound with the multi-part, six minute long title track 'Purification.' It begins in conventional fashion, with some nicely under produced, crackly riffs and a chorus of desperate-sounding vocals.
However, it's after the midway point that 'Purification' begins to lose its way, as Lethargy indulge in a sprawling instrumental mid-section that's technically impressive, but devoid of hooks. Save for a short segment of steadily hammering riffs overlaid with resonating piano keys, and a rush of dizzying chord-work that hustles the listener out of that instrumental trudge, it's all a little unengaging.
Once the vocals kick back in, 'Purification' quickly reclaims its former glories, it's just a shame we had to sit through so much noodling to get there.
The piano-led balladry of 'Fragile Crystal Dream' brings 'Purification' to a fitting conclusion. The first half is restricted to steady piano strains, which really draw attention to the intricate three-part vocal work. This alone is enough to hold the listener's attention, but then Lethargy crack out some industrial-tinged sound effects and emulated strings. 'Fragile Crystal Dream' isn't the most attention-grabbing song on this album, but it's the perfect note to end on.
'Purification' is a frustrating album. 'Convenient Ignorant Amnesia' and 'A Lost Adoration' are two of the best classic-rock-with-a-contemporary-twist songs you're likely to have heard in a while, but the rest of the album is a hit-or-miss affair. However, 'Purification' does boast two great songs that deserve to be heard and, hopefully, Lethargy will be able to produce songs of a similar caliber in the future.