Black Country, New Road’s latest album Ants From Up There is a powerful and provocative masterpiece. If there’s one album this month that you sit down and listen to in full, it’s got to be this one. The group originated in Cambridgeshire in 2018 and have since struck out a genre-defining course employing jazz rhythms, classical crescendos, punchy punk climaxes and heart-wrenching lyrics.
AFUT takes the listener on a journey through troughs of despair and peaks of absolute ecstasy. It’s beautiful to see how the band have developed their sound from last year’s release For The First Time. They have maintained their slow-build, somber feel, but somehow the slow sections on this album feel more purposeful and are all too necessary in painting the background of their dramatic soundscapes. The lyrics are harrowing, nostalgic, and intertwined with familiar references which tie together the explosion of ideas which would otherwise seem disconnected.
Concrete Music Editor, Tom Manning said this about the album: “Ants From Up There is truly a masterful album. Isaac’s lyrics are some of his most captivating and dense so far and the album, as a whole, feels like a perfect send off for the Black Country New Road we have known.”
It’s a reassuring sign when the task of choosing a favourite track feels impossible. There is something for everyone on this album, with the opening single Chaos Space Marine, which the band calls the ‘best song we’ve ever written’, and Concorde giving us an easy access to the beauty of jazz-inspired pop-rock. And from the compositional masterpiece The Place Where He Inserted The Blade, to the closing epic Basketball Shoes which is guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps, there is plenty for the musical purists to enjoy as well.
Little did we all know on the release of the album’s first single, Chaos Space Marine, how potent the lines “So I’m leaving this body / And I’m never coming home again” would prove to be. Lead singer Isaac Wood recently announced that he is leaving the band, and the group have cancelled their tours, including a gig that was originally scheduled for December at The Waterfront. In a statement released by the band, Wood explained that he had been going through “the kind of sad and afraid feeling that makes it hard to play guitar and sing at the same time.” Nonetheless, he thanks the rest of the band for the time they spent playing together, calling them “wonderful in a sparkling way.” His departure merely enhances the impact of the more somber lyrics, especially the repeated metaphor of the Concorde.
The group’s seven members combine their musical wizardry to create a whirlwind of sax, strings, blisteringly complex percussion, and irresistible guitar. Ants From Up There is both hopeful and helpless. Without a doubt, it will become one of the most memorable albums of 2022.