By Black Soul Strangers
Upon picking up their second single, 'The Haunting,' it didn't take me long to realise who Black Soul Strangers are, or at least who they're trying to be. In fact, I didn't even need to listen to the track to come to a conclusion; the yellow sticker on the sleeve quotes a eulogising NME review (a lot of the time, this means a band's more hype, less substance,) and when coupled with the band's sinister name ('Black Soul,' eh?) and the eerie, enigmatic cover, Editors and White Lies don't seem to be far away. A gloom-rock outfit with stadium sized ambitions? It certainly seems like it so far.
In this respect, 'The Haunting' doesn't disappoint. But I can't help but feel that there's enough verve and emotion behind it to compensate for its clear lack of originality.
From the echo-laden, delicate guitars to the punctuating drums and the understated but harrowingly beautiful piano melody, there's countless layers to the track. It's not just New Wave and post-punk, but also the gothic rock of The Cure that's left an irrefutable imprint on it.
It's with Gorey's high-pitched, wavering vocals that the underlying emotional intensity is most effectively captured, though. Even with the barely audible lyrics of depression and solitude, his emoting is still powerful; it's not surprising to discover that 'The Haunting' was written in the immediate aftermath of his father's sudden death.
But his outpouring seems to be restricted and restrained somehow; a crescendo and instrumental explosion is predictable, but when it materialises it doesn't have the uncontrollable cathartic expression that you feel it could have. It's all too polite, too polished, too Radio 1 friendly.
Have they compromised creativity for ambition and potential chart success? I'm not entirely sure. All I do know is that 'Animate,' their forthcoming debut LP due in April, will be their 'make or break' moment. Don't disappoint us, lads.