Mere hours after publishing my interview with Strange Bones, the Blackpool four-piece released their first foray into the promoting and teasing of their upcoming album. ‘England Screams’ was that single — which has the same title as the full record — and it emerged with more rocket power behind it than a battleship. And let’s not forget that riotous guest solo from Calva Louise’s Jess Allanic.
Now, here we have the full 12-track masterpiece, and it’s come via FRKST, an imprint of 300 Entertainment.
The album sets out its stall as one hell of an experimental electro-punk assault with ‘Jungle’, one of the energetic singles they’ve been drip-feeding our ears over the past few months. It’s a fine example of frontman Bobby Bentham’s vision for the band coming to fruition. Then comes ‘England Screams’, arguably one of the most intense, immense tracks of not just 2021, but the last five years! It’s been a cardio playlist regular for me since it dropped, too. Absolute wizardry. And we now know where the end of the song’s whispered word, “dogma”, leads…
Enlisting help from PAV4N, ‘Dogma’ is wildly fierce. It has an untamed, unchained, uncaged vibe, and it’s where you can detect a lot of the drum and bass influences alongside those stabbing pre-chorus punk riffs. Slick stuff.
For me, the more playful melodic spine of ‘Sin City’ is very Calva Louise in its sound, with those Strange Bones mainstays, too. Perhaps that’s where the collaborative nature of the two bands’ living situation together comes into its own. After all, Bobby did mix and produce both of their albums. Either way, that track begs to be blared out through the loudest speakers you’ve got.
Long-standing fans will already know the hell-raising ‘Menace (feat. Bob Vylan)’, which never ceases to be a treat. But then we get into uncharted waters again, where one of the most addictive troublemakers on the album chimes in: ‘World On Fire’. I can sense this is about to become my soundtrack to the next month’s antics. I’m not afraid to say I’ll already be responsible for a lot of its streams as well.
‘Snakepit’ — the very first Strange Bones offering I ever heard — remains a favourite, but has had a whole new mix for the album. Its electronic facelift has spawned a song even more ferocious than before, with bursts of sound effects and injections of almost rattling, snake-like noises right at the beginning. It’s the original, just all beefed-up on steroids.
Once again showcasing Bobby’s comfort — and deft skill — outside his comfort zone, there’s ’Sleepwalking’. It’s all about staying in control — if you’d rather be asleep than awake, there’s something you need to address. Through the pulsating electronics, stabbing drums and feisty riffs and synths, it’s a hard-hitting beast with relatable lyrics to boot.
The reference to the shackles breaking on ‘Crime Pays’ is not just relevant for the subject matter, but also the process that’s gone into this album. Bobby had described the blood, sweat, tears — and lack of sleep — poured into this collection when I interviewed him. And now we can really hear it in the output! What we have here is the Strange Bones he wanted to realise, and the band have achieved that goal tenfold.
The zombie-conjuring ‘Deathwish’ was a mighty single in its own right, but it’s even better as part of the album. The song leads into ‘Bloodsports’ with Death Tour, whereby the screamo vocals serve as yet another reminder that Strange Bones aren’t trying to conform or restrict themselves to one box. Their electro-punk niche borderline tips into metal in parts and that, certainly for me, makes it even more exciting.
Last, but certainly not least, the harmonies and honest lyrics of ‘Heavy’ present the band as an open book, just before the record draws to a close. Wow.
There’s so much theatre here, and it’s all impeccably produced. We were promised something gigantic and that’s certainly what we’ve been gifted. It’s time to reap the rewards of all the hard graft, lads.
If you only download one track, let it be: THE WHOLE LOT. DO IT.