Say what you will about Editors, but you have to give the band some credit. They may have drifted away from their post-punk roots with their 2013 album ‘The Weight of Your Love’, but if you compare them to other arena-sized, radio-friendly rock acts of the decade, singles like ‘Sugar’ and ‘Ton of Love’ actually had some punch to them, while their 2015 follow-up ‘In Dream’ was more atmospheric and varied than you would expect from a band that had seemingly gone fully commercial. Of course, even during the band’s early days, a lot of people were not impressed by their unoriginal attempt to revive the sound of their more interesting influences like Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen, though that is probably an unfair comparison. Even by these standards, however, Violence, their sixth full-length album, is easily their worst to date, a collection of some of the band’s weakest and most uninspired songs. The U.K. alternative group frequently tours around the world, and this record feels little more than an effort to add a few more tracks to their setlist.
Violence sees the band going for a more electronic-driven sound that they’ve experimented with in the past, and it was very promising to hear that experimental electronic producer Blanck Mass helped make the album. Which is why it comes off as a surprise that a record with this title has almost nothing in common with the dark, aggressive beats the producer is known for, but rather settles all too comfortably in the generic pop rock sound that bands like The Killers and Snow Patrol popularized in the 2000s and countless indie groups now emulate for some airplay. This new direction is clear right from the opening track, ‘Cold’, an utterly bland song that’s only good enough if you want to idly bop your head along to the painfully safe beat, not to mention the ridiculous “hey!” backing vocals that pop up as if merely to complete the oversaturated formula – a formula which the band more or less returns to on tracks like ‘Nothingness’ and ‘Counting Spooks’. On the longer, more melodic title track you can admire some of the subtle electronic flourishes, but any powerful impact they might have had gets instantly drowned by the production, which favours a more conventional approach.
Sometimes the indie electropop tracks are effective, like on the colourful ‘Darkness at the Door’, even if that’s mostly because it’s an overly familiar carbon copy of the aforementioned successful bands’ most recognizable singles – once again Editors prove themselves as excellent imitators of a specific style, but they need to put their own spin on it for that comparison to be a positive one. Not all tracks are characterized by this sound: the ethereal vocal melodies on highlight ‘Hallelujah (So Low)’ feel appropriate for the mood and are almost reminiscent of early Radiohead, and the song bursts with energy as a driving guitar riff kicks in. ‘Magazine’ is one of the most dynamic songs in the tracklisting, balancing electronic and guitar-driven elements, even if it still feels somewhat overblown and common. ‘No Sound But the Wind’ is the obligatory piano ballad, a new version of a song that originally appeared on the surprisingly compelling The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack. It’s worth noting that singer Tom Smith’s delivery is still as distinctive and powerful as ever, though this time the production doesn’t exactly quite suit his baritone voice and the lyrics are predictably vague. You can sense the band is trying to do something new, but they don’t exactly do it in a way that’s as daring or exciting as the album’s concept suggests.
The full track-listing is…
2.Hallelujah (So Low)
4.Darkness At The Door
7.No Sound But the Wind