Track Review: Royal Tusk- Shadow of Love


Royal Tusk

Shadow of Love


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Shadow of Love is available from:

The E.P. Mountain is available via:

10 July 2014

Shadow of Love9.4
Smoke Rings9.4
The Letter9.5
Years Ago9.3
Jesus Saves9.4

The Letter

Shadow of Love, Smoke Rings, The Letter, Jesus Saves

Americana, Soul, Rock

Good luck stopping these mammoths! This Canadian quintet unleash Shadow of Love: the opening track of Royal Tusk‘s E.P., Mountain. Backed with punch, passion and accusation; it is a musical powerhouse that sets out their agenda- one that is hard to refute

HAVING just read an interesting article in the Irish Mirror; a distinct point struck my mind.

In an interview conducted with Wild Beasts, their frontman- Hayden Thorpe- was decrying the state of mainstream bands. Exhausted by the flock and overabundance of rent-a-band compositions; the Yorkshire singer pointed out the lack of passion and genuinity in the music scene. Being a huge fan of the band- especially their Two Dancers album- I couldn’t help but agree. If you look at Wild Beasts themselves, you can hear and feel the sympatico and brotherhood: all of their recordings are instilled with a bond and sense of togetherness that makes them so compelling- they are not merely a group thrown together to flatter the frontman’s ego. Having just come out of a recession, there is a slight freeze on these unwanted ranks- the numbers have been capped a little. When in the midst of the financial crisis, the mainstream seemed to be stuffed full of wealthy and fame-seeking bands: artists that were desperate to put their faces on as many pieces of merchandise as possible. Concerned with profit and fame- over credibility and music- it caused many fans and listeners to balk and retreat- in addition to money being tight, few were willing to indulge the greediest and least honourable bands. Unfortunately, the disease has not been eradicated: there are too many acts playing that do not have their hearts and minds in the right place- the lure of money still compels. Thorpe went onto state (that there is too much careerism) and the lack of risks- saying music shouldn’t always make sense; it should make you think. Decrying the influx of singer/songwriters- who simply employ musicians to fill out their sound- the band market contains too many posers and pointless examples. When Wild Beast came about- towards 2008- they were awkward and different: sticking out and emanating (from regions that did not have a cultural movement), they were a moonshot- perhaps they would not have survived if they had been formed post-recession. Because of this mainstream malady, more people are becoming inspired by new acts- those that see corporatism as evil; choosing to rebel against it. In the course of my duties, I witness so many acts (that back Hayden Thorpe up): boys and girls that are together to make their music touch people- they are not on the scene to rake in big bucks. When mainstream acts capitulate, there is an element of Schadenfreude- when new acts crumble, there is genuine unease and worry. A lot of time the acts are strong and ambitious; they cease to exist because of the fierce competition. It is great that there is so much quality coming through; I hope the most worthy acts do make their mark- my featured act are an example of a band that deserve big rewards. A community of like-minded and dedicated brothers, the musician minds of Royal Tusk instill their sounds with as much passion and dedication as you could ever find. Flicking between ruminative Americana, potently emotive Soul- hard and driving Rock- the band are one of the most mobile and hard-working bands today. I am in the middle of a Canadian 1-2-3: having just reviewed Ontario’s City and the Sea I am preparing my mind for Toronto’s Black Lady Soul- the country is keeping my mind busy. What I find- when looking at Canada- is the sheer conviction and solidity of the bands: the musicians associated have a fond respect and appreciation for one another- making their music as stunning and potent as they can. I want to expand on this point- and refer to another point Hayden Thorpe raised- but will introduce you to my featured act:

Daniel Carriere
Sandy MacKinnon
Motorbike James
J. Eygenraam
Kurtis Schultz

You can’t stop a mammoth. Especially a rock ‘n’ roll mammoth led by singer/guitarist Daniel Carriere and bassist Sandy MacKinnon. Royal Tusk is the name of their beast — a shaggy, tenacious force with hints of Americana, soul, and a whole lotta heart. Their first six-song EP, Mountain, is due June 10 on Hidden Pony Records. You could say the title refers to the pair’s immovable friendship, but it’s also a cheeky nod to their persistence as musicians — not even a mountain can deter Royal Tusk. “We’ve been pushing a cart uphill for years,” Carriere chuckles. “We just don’t know how to stop,” MacKinnon admits. You might recognize the two from Ten Second Epic, one of Edmonton’s most beloved rock bands. After 12 years, three albums and two Juno nominations, Ten Second Epic is winding down, but Carriere and MacKinnon still want to make music together. “With the experience of Ten Second Epic, we learned how to do it right, so we know which tunes to put forward …,” says Carriere. “… And not to be so sensitive if something isn’t as good as something else,” adds MacKinnon, who sports a tattoo of a bass-playing mammoth on is right arm. “Not to mention having spent the last 12 years in a van.” “Some of these songs are really old. I feel there’s a certain amount of climbing … and learning what you really wanna do. There’s also a certain amount of catharsis, as if you’re closing a chapter by writing these songs,” Carriere says. “Most of them, kind of cryptically, address certain people, relationships that I’ve had in my life. During some downtime from Ten Second Epic, Carriere also briefly co-fronted DreamFace, a pop band. “I wanted to make sure Royal Tusk was very player-oriented, whereas in DreamFace, I pretty much wrote every part and recorded it,” says Carriere. Keyboardist Motorbike James, guitarist J. Eygenraam and drummer Kurtis Schultz round off Royal Tusk. “With Royal Tusk, I get a rough idea of a song and say, ‘OK, guys, let’s go, write your parts!’ I wanted to get excited again, hear what they bring to the table. Sometimes if you write every single note, you’re like ‘What is this?’ It’s the dynamic between people that makes music fun and inspires you.” You can hear the fun and excitement on Mountain, produced by Gus Van Go (The Stills, Said The Whale, Hollerado). Even when Royal Tusk is tackling heartache, regret or indecision, their songs seem to burst with joy — thanks to bubbly organs, soulful grooves, elasticized riffs, and Carriere’s warm, but defiant vocals on tracks such as the first single, Shadow of Love, and The Letter. With a forth-coming EP and impending tour dates, Carriere and MacKinnon will once again get in the van and continue pushing forward. Nope, you really can’t stop a mammoth.”

I will investigate Royal Tusk’s music anon; first I am compelled to raise another point. Harking back to that man Hayden Thorpe- another interview point really spoke to me. In 2014, we have as much stored music and resources as any time during history- the baffling and mind-boggling array of recorded sounds is confounding. New artists are faced with an exhausting and baffling task: which sounds and artists do you incorporate into your music? The Wild Beasts frontman weighed up the blessing and curse of choice- having so much at your disposal can cause many to sweat with exhaustion. Perhaps the risks- of dipping into musical history- are outweighing the benefits- new bands tend to limit their sonic output and variation. As much as I love Indie and Rock bands- the wonder and passion they can enforce- I yearn for sounds that do things a bit differently- take their mind away from the predictable and surprise the listener. Royal Tusk are no workaday average band: their blends of Americana, Rock and Soul are a treat for the ears; they have been seducing critics and setting their sights apart. Just to look at the striking five-piece is to see something different: our hirsute and intriguing heroes are not the predictable mass of ripped jeans and moody stares; no man necklaces and dark glasses appear in their publicity photos- they are MEN who make epic music; the epitome of the brave new wave of artists coming through. Imbued with as much determination, ambition and force (as most bands out there), the guys have cleverly dipped into music’s (vast and bounteous) chest of resources- infused elements together to elicit something genuinely fresh and stunning. The band is clearly very close and tightly-knit: the music is player-orientated and a solid foundation. There is no dictatorship; the guys are not preening and genuflecting (to the beat of the frontman)- everything is equally-distributed within the ranks of Royal Tusk. The Canadian band have overcome two near-insurmountable objects: not only are they a genuine and honest band; they ensure their music is distinct and fervent- stunning enough to blow away the cobwebs of predictability. This brilliance and artistry is cemented in their E.P., Mountain. I will be giving the E.P. a short review- in the conclusionary paragraph- yet have been compelled by their latest single- the brilliant Shadow of Love. The lead-off track from their stunning E.P., it has caused many excited Internet tongues to proffer a-wagging: commentators have been quick to point out the song’s joyous mix of beauty and soul- the hard edges and the gutsy and tender middles. Few bands have such a terrific blend of sounds and sensations- they are an act I will be following for as long as I can.

When it comes to assessing Royal Tusk’s previous work, it proves to be a difficult task. The band was formed from the ashes of acts like Ten Second Epic- the group contained Royal Tusk members Daniel Carriere and Sandy MacKinnon. Albums such as Count Yourself In contained a lot of Emo and Rock edges- the songs were more consistently hard than Royal Tusk’s latest work. Displaying some of the hallmarks that have gone into Mountain– the band’s follow-up- Hometown was awash with catchy riffs, soaring melodies and insatiable lyrics. Others such as Stand Up and First & Foremost impressed critics greatly: the songs striking riffs and huge memorability stood out in the mind. Whereas a lot of the tracks were guitar-driven- the album clocked in nearly an hour long- there was plenty of diversity and range. Warm Pop moments and atmospheric avenues were mingled; the band opened up their palette and created one of their finest works. Having gained huge acclaim throughout Canada, it is a shame that the band decided to call things quits- you can hear the development from the work of Ten Second Epic. Retaining those distinct guitar sounds and sense of range, Royal Tusk offer something new: the band seem more in-tune and together; the songs more fully-rounded and effortless- the democracy and openness of the creative process has led to richer and more rewarding songs. Dipping more into Americana and Soul sounds, Royal Tusk have a lot at their disposal: the songs on Mountain are testament to the fervent and unadulterated ambition (and talent at work). The biggest development and change is the band themselves: they sound different and separate themselves from Ten Second Epic- Carriere and MacKinnon have not simply put together a duplicate group. Because of this, you must assess Royal Tusk on their initial work- the sounds and sensations emanating from their E.P. Shadow of Love is warm and has trippy edges: the intro. takes your mind away from Ten Second Epic and towards something new and alert. Showcasing some biblical and elephantine riffs, the song is a mixture of surprises and huge fireworks- the boys are in inspired and compelling mood. Smoke Rings has heart-felt and emotive melodies: the song has a mellifluous and breezy soul that ties the myriad and multifarious riffs together. The Letter is a tender and emotive ballad that has strength and plenty of passion- it is one of the standout songs on the E.P. I shall review the tracks in greater depth, yet it is clear that this exciting outfit mean business: their E.P. is not merely a collection of samey songs and tired retreads- there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. Whilst some reviewers may have yearned for more riff-heavy kicks, it is a minor detraction- Mountain is impressive because of its different contours and colours. An E.P. that was chocked with heavier and more psychedelic sounds would grow tiring- it would not contain necessary nuance and diversity. Appealing to a wide range of listeners and fans, what Royal Tusk have done is put together a solid and fascinating work- one that will surely lead to many more recordings. Their sounds are assured and confident; completely intuitive and together- the partnerships between the band members has solidified and galvanised their music- the performances are universally compelling.

When trying to look at influences for Royal Tusk, it is a difficult job. Having such a unique and fresh sound, you can only detect the most minor of influences really- bits of choruses and riffs put you in mind of other artists. In interviews, the band have hinted at inspirations and influences; some of Mountain‘s songs have whiffs of well-known acts. When hearing some of the spellbinding and energised guitar work- on the E.P.- I was put in mind of modern-day Muse. Albums like The Resistance were packed with shout-choruses and huge atmopsherics- the big musical ambition and vocal virtuosity made the album so compelling. Mountain contains similar themes and qualities: the biggest numbers have anthemic flair and headiness; choruses and lines that compel the listener to shout along in unison. Hugely titanic guitars and multi-layered melodies made The Resistance such a huge proposition- there was Rock-Opera and bombast; extravagance and epics. Whereas Royal Tusk do not employ Rachmaninoff-style pianos and classical overtures, they do instill some of Muse’s upbeat and foot-stomping grandeur- songs such as Shadow of Love are testament to this. The vocals on Mountain are suitably sky-scraping and lustful; like Bellamy’s performances- on The Resistance– there is huge soulfulness and crooning emotion. The 2nd Law saw Muse continue their charm offensive: the album contains slick production and a sonic innovation. Pushing themselves further than they have before, Muse incorporated a wide array of sounds and genres- it was one of their most diverse discs. Although The 2nd Law came off a little disjointed and scattershot, Mountain manages to tie its diverse threads together- there is more cohesion and solidity within the E.P. Like Muse’s 2011 album, Mountain has plenty of emotion and introspection. Muse- on The 2nd Law– looked at personal demons and harsh emotions; themes of alcoholism and depression were explored- wrapped up in atmospheric and deeply touching sonics. Royal Tusk tie together Muse’s latter-career work; that same mixture of fist-pumping jams (and deep and compelling gems). Arctic Monkeys is a name that I will mention. Usually reserved for Indie bands and U.K.-based artists, I can see some of the Sheffield boys’ artistry come through in Mountain. When the riffs get dirty and primal, I heard embers of AM– the band’s latest album. Carrying on from Humbug‘s Josh Homme-inspired inputs- darker riffs; Desert Rock sounds; something altogether sexier- the band produced an album filled with muscular and taut Rock (and melodic Pop moments)- they united their Humbug and Suck It and See work. Royal Tusk infuse some Hip-Hop-influenced guitars- the time signatures and distinct patterns that Arctic Monkeys experimented with on AM (can be seen on some of Mountain‘s songs). The endless energy and fun- that defined Arctic Monkeys’ early work- has influenced Royal Tusk- the band never sound anything but intent and meaningful; even their most introspective songs contain plenty of light and beauty. AM possesses plenty of craft, musicianship and confidence- the songs were uniformly tight and nuanced. Royal Tusk ensure their music is well-crafted and studied- there are no loose edges or aimless jams to be found. Strong rhythmic moments, fuzzy guitars and lust. AM was a work by a band who wanted to be seen as artists; rather than Indie boys- it screams ambition and professionalism. The slow juggernauts, hand-clap moments and electrifying luster- that defined AM– can be seen in Mountain. Royal Tusk may not lace their lyrics with as much potery and wordplay; their compositions are jammed with power, story and unexpectidness- they subvert expectations and create something quite startling. Having mentioned the Homme-produced Humbug– I shall mention Queens of the Stone Age. Mountain contains some Desert-Rock crawls; slinking and snaking riffs- you can compare it with Like Clockwork… On Queens’ latest disc, the boys upped the volume and crunch; made sure the album had as much denseness (and tautness) as they had ever displayed. Gone were the sprawls and Desert-Rock reliance: instead the band incorporated interwoven riffs and purposeful tightness. The cuts on Like Clockwork… were more song-orientated and mature; catchier and more assured than anything that had gone before- something Royal Tusk employ. The Canadians draw in these elements, but install some of Era Vulgaris‘ ragged and wild energy- those direct and missile hits come into the bargain. Royal Tusk possess some of Queens’ current grooves and razor-sharp songwriting- songs go from shuddering and dark through to swaggering and sexy. no two songs sound alike; the mobility and colourfulness that comes through defines Mountain. When choruses become impassioned and emotive, I hear touches of early-career Matchbox 20. The Florida band’s debut work- Yourself or Someone Like You– was synonymous with Rob Thomas’ heartfelt and stadium-sized vocals. That albums draws in the basic elements of ’90s Rock; augments the blueprints of Classic-Rock- married them in a boiling pot of melodic and catchy bravado. Centered around Thomas’ emphatic and sturdy vocals, the band’s early days won over masses of fans. Although Royal Tusk are stronger and more impressive, they do mix in some of Matchbox 20’s qualities. When Mad Season came about- the band’s sophomore album- here there was plenty of mainstream American-Rock catchiness; huge craftsmanship that emphasised melodies and brought fun and shine into proceedings- something I can hear along Mountain. The Canadian quintet instill plenty of well-produced and rounded songs; gems that stand up to repeated listens- songs that are perfect for sunnier climbs and warm days. Before I hint at some band-specific icons- that Royal Tusk are influenced by- I will mention one more name- My Chemical Romance. The now-defunct icons won over legions of supports with their distinct and alert sound. Of the band’s four albums, The Black Parade and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge are the most relevant comparables. The mega-decibel kick of The Black Parade made every track- on the album- so alive and emphatic; there was Rock-Opera and H-bomb bombast. Although The Black Parade was a concept album, it engaged critics with its blend of interesting storybook characters-cum-Progressive ambitions. Combining Prog-Rock swathes with Rock-Opera riffs, it is My Chemical Romance’s most cohesive and scintillating work. Royal Tusk project some of these elements with Three Cheer for Sweet Revenge. Stompers like I’m Not Okay (I Promise) showed a relentless drive towards energy and claustrophobic realms. Although Royal Tusk do not portray the same blood-stained scenes, they have an ear for thematic storytelling- their tracks draw you into some fascinating and eye-catching tableaus. With harsh and pummeling percussion- on numbers like Ghost of You- The Black Parade was a varied and action-packed collection. Royal Tusk make sure Mountain has its fair share of atmosphere, urgency and story- topped off with My Chemical Romance-esque anthemics, and you have a band that mean business. Dipping into interviews- conducted with Royal Tusk- there are some names that influenced their creative progress. Jeremy Fisher, Said the Whale and Lyle Lovett are the final three names I will draw in. Jeremy Fisher is a fellow Canadian songwriter- albums such as Goodbye Blue Monday were rife with quality songs. Rollicking shuffle, charm and charisma made songs like Jolene and Scar That Never Heals so fascinating and addictive. Lay Down‘s swaggering and confident chorus made it a standout song; stories about pining for home and comfort gives it a personal and emotive edge- it is a layered and multicoloured work of art. Royal Tusk install plenty of personal songs and relevant travelogues; their music has stunning confident and restrained moments- it is clear that their fellow countryman has had an affect. Lyle Lovett’s I Love Everybody offer change-ups and engaging stories; dour humour and deep emotions resonate in the songs- brought to life with stunning band performances. Whilst Royal Tusk employ the faintest hints of Lovett- when they go Country-field and Folk-orientated- his legacy comes out. Said the Whale are a prolific Canadian Indie-Rock/Indie-Folk band. When investigating their album Islands Disappear, you can see it had an effect on Royal Tusk. That album possesses natural landscapes- investigating the effect scenery has on the mindset. The band explore their environment; pine for various towns and getaways- take the listener inside their mind to somewhere special. Layering their songs with sing-along charm and quality, it is a deep, layered and rich album. Royal Tusk have a similarly evocative and scenic scope: their songs take your mind along with them; put pictures and images in the brain- have that same wistfulness and romantic side to their songs. Mountain sees numbers explore similar ventures- Royal Tusk has the ability to calm the senses and relax the hurried and stressed listener.

With all of this information on board; given what we know about the band’s inception (and background)- a lot of pressure must be on them. Shadow of Love is a rebirth and embryonic step: the world’s first taste of what Royal Tusk are all about. Anyone expecting something slow-building and passive are in for a surprise- the band ensure that you are hooked from the initial moments. A funky and springing step welcomes the track in. Fusing swirling moments of Americana; The Resistance-era Muse; some touches of Soul- the sapling seconds whip up plenty of potential and promise. Already hooked into the song, it carries you along with its gleefulness and insatiable beat. Dancing along to its brief- but beautiful- lead in, out hero approaches the microphone. The initial words paint at unease and heartache. Our frontman has done things he didn’t want to do- he should have listened to his friends; they said “lie to you.” The vocal is determined and impassioned; not prone to overdoing things, there is plenty of strength and resentment mingling with one another- whomever the culpable sweetheart is, she has caused a world of issues. Perhaps things are not so one-sided. My initial thoughts saw the girl at fault- it seems like our hero may be dropping the ball. He clearly is enamoured of the girl; realises mistakes have been made- perhaps his attention has been diffuse and wavering. Proclaiming he’ll make the dinner he never did; rectifying his transgressions- our man seems to be in honest and confessional mode. Doing what he was “never supposed to do” he has been running with the boys; prioritising his friends- ahead of his girl- it seems that some damage has been done. It is rare to find a song that casts blame on the author- ordinarily there is accusations and finger-pointing; not here. Desperate to make things right, our man is turning over a new leaf. The band nobly support their brother’s quest: the guitars swagger and grumble with Arctic Monkey-esque prowess; the mood is light but forceful- it is a perfect blend that means the words resonate and stick. Ensuring that his words hit the mark, the vocal increases and augments its urgency. Our hero’s mother has offered sagacious words; truth is the focal point of the song. Caught in a Catch-22 situation, something has been said- to his sweetheart- that has caused the riff: knowing he should never lie, perhaps our man has been TOO honest. Whether he has committed an indiscretion or been too open, I am not sure- it appears that he was following logic and truthfulness. Coming back around to bite him, the chorus offers up the most effusive and impassioned plea. Vocals unite; the band combine tightly- the insatiable and rushing delivery highlights the sense of pain and upheaval. Whatever has been said between the two; whatever truths have been unearthed, our hero just wants her back- deep down he is the same man that she fell in love with. Making sure rambunctious swing mandates their sounds; the band bolster and emphasise their roles- injecting plenty of force and momentum into proceedings. Scared of his shadow of love, the track mutates and jives: the guitars rampantly shift and contort; the bass guides the men forward- the percussion clatters with lustful abandon. Changing direction mid-line, the boys pull off an AM-esque track: subverting expectations and keeping the track endlessly fresh and alive. Arctic Monkeys solidified this on that album; kept everything vibrant, vital and dangerous- the Canadian quintet show a similar intelligence and adventurousness. Packed with plenty of sing-along might; emphatic fists-in-the-air quality, the song draws you in. Just as you are ready to submit yourself to a tidal wave of energy and force- the song dips back down. Our hero offers apology and reflection- he wonders whether it would have been best if they had never met. Causing his woman trouble, there is an air of sarcasm and insincerity: perhaps the other party is over-reacting and being too unrealistic. Our man has been honest and genuine; expending energy and time- she has got back what she put in. Perhaps not pulling her weight; not being committed- it is unsurprising she is dissatisfied and disgruntled. Putting her to rights, our hero wages war- he is not going to be seen as the victim in the piece. His apologies are premature: if he had of said sorry it would have been another lie- you get a great glimpse into a complete picture. It seems that both are being a little stubborn and guilty- it is probably best that the relationship has come to a natural end. Dizzying and tripping electronics bond with the guitar, percussion and bass- acting as a post-chorus parable, it rustles up plenty of renewed intrigue. Our hero comes across as a dominant and alpha figure: he is not going to back down or repent; all your initial summations are instantly contradicted and redefined. Combining elements of Muse’s latter-day work; Arctic Monkeys’ latest album; plenty of anthemics and atmosphere- you never lose interest at all. Before the 2:20 mark, a spiked and buzzing riff is unleashed- not too heavy or primal, it perfectly keeps the mood tense. Our frontman has an air of detachment and aloofness- he has done all he can and seems unwilling to break his back. Wonderfully sitting alongside the likes of The Black Key’s break-up gems- the songs heard on Turn Blue– our boys present their own take- one where sorrow does not dictate things. It is the charm and endless bonhomie that makes the track so distinct and buoyant: it never relents or seems willing to submit- ensuring every line and note gets the listener standing to attention; moving their feet in time. The song’s title acts as a ghost and curse: our man is still scared by his own shadow- his sweetheart should be similarly aware and cautious. Lacing the composition with so much catchiness, addictive sting and rousing strings work, the track never succumbs to the worst traits of the mainstream- that ready-for-radio sound that consists of humdrum and mediocre compositional values. It is the incredibly passionate and distinct contributions from the band- tied to their leader’s stirring vocal- that makes the song their own; ensures that it never escapes your mind. As we go into the final seconds, the boys are not done talking. The song title is elongated and stretched; the words punctuated and underlined- the band back it up with a rousing and unfaltering dedication to the subject matter. Providing the same kick as we found in the intro.; the last moments snarl and feast- the hungry mammoth has done with his victim.

I shall give plaudits to the band; for now, I will sum up the song. It is a rousing and stunning opening cut- from the Mountain E.P. I shall go into a little more depth- with regards to the individual numbers- but few E.P.s open with such clout and purpose. Drawing in elements of Ten Second Epic’s previous work; instilling a huge amount of new and fresh inspiration- and some hints of others acts- the band have unveiled a fully-rounded and deep song- one that stands up to repeated listens. One of the biggest problems with the mainstream is the musical Lazarus syndrome. A lot of critics call time on bands; their pulses have stopped beating- they are verbally declared dead. What happens is they come back- seemingly from the dead- and confound- either reuniting or providing unexpectedly good work. My point is, this declaration is made because their current output is so sub-par and ineffectual- sometimes it occurs right at the start of their careers. New bands have to ensure their very initial steps are as meaningful and potent as they can muster up- I have seen too many enter the scene with such a whimper; I am shocked they have an audience after such inexcusable sloppiness. Royal Tusk know how important first impressions are: with a rich musical heritage behind them, Shadow of Love is an authoritative, confident and taut track. Both moody and uplifting, it mixes so many different strands and colours into the melting pot- without compromising its ideals and working-class background. The band themselves make the song such a triumph. The vocal is completely convincing and gripping. Not owing too much to any other voices, the performance never loses its step and force- that urgency and compelling grasp are what makes the words so standout. The themes have been trodden before; few bands keeps you guessing and provide twists and turns- the band have not simply done what everyone else does; their unique testament should inspire other bands to write similar songs. The guitar work is emphatic and mesmeric throughout. When the solos arrive they are not too overbearing and cloying- injecting just the appropriate amount of drive and weight, they provide some of the most memorable moments. Although there are touches of Arctic Monkeys- and by extension, Queens of the Stone Age- luster and sound; the band do not simply rebrand it and copycat- their sound is very much their own. During the choruses, the strings provide ample and impressive backing; the bass work is tremendous and strong- it keeps everything authoritative and determined. Never letting the foreground run away and become too overladen, they offer restraint and discipline- whilst ensuring lyrical and melodic invention comes out. Drumming on the track is stout and stern- passionate and raw, it makes sure the song never drops its head (or gets out of your mind). In the same way the likes of Foo Fighters can unleash band-orientated smashes- here Royal Tusk have carved a stunning and vibrant song. The perfect start to their E.P., it ensures listening ears investigate everything they have to offer.

Throughout Mountain, you are given something new and surprising. Engine starts tenderly and emotional- our frontman lets his smooth and impassioned voice implore. Needing to get away and escape, he hits the road and escapes a bad situation. Never more sure of things, the song pops and sparkles: the composition starts sparse and effective- it bursts to life in the chorus. Displaying the most fervent and wracked vocal performance, the hero rallies against his girl- she will never know what she lost; get what she thinks she should have. The rage and anger pours with venom- you believe every word that is uttered. Throwing in some melody and light, the song rises and falls- the energy levels never rest at all. When the story moves forward, our hero is surrounded by bottles, alcohol and girls- he has broken away from the shackles of a relationship; found himself somewhere more freeing. This is his rebellion and emancipation. Smoke Rings begins with a catchy and spirited cry. Giving him what he needs (whatever that refers to), our hero lets his voice shine- mixing whispered falsetto with crackling roars, it is a terrific performance. The song looks at a flighty and unreliable subject- someone who likes to “come and go.” Whether causing annoyance and unrest- or just taken as red- the heroine is never around. Our man seems to have given up caring. Backed by a focused and strong composition, it is one of the E.P.’s most immediate and urgent songs. The Letter is more emotive and tender. Looking at a letter- that was written a while back- our man never sent it. In his drawer- having been through the wash- there is hesitation and nerves. Not having mailed the letter, our hero looks back on events- he was dreaming; not having said what he should have, events have turned how they have. It has its heart and soul in a romantic comedy: the will-they-wont-they scenarios; the recriminations and regrets; the sense of mystery too. Whether the two have separated and cannot come back; dedication and tribute is paid- the other party always had his back (when things got hard and other started to doubt). Possessing the most ambitious and fascinating composition, there are spacey and trippy electronics (and layered vocals)- that sense of importance and grandeur comes through sharply. Years Ago has Americana and Blues tones. Softer and more measured, it hits you with its initial sway. The song sees our man try to forget about a love; push the memories aside- our hero wants to love again but is scared that things will break. Complex and mobile, the composition adds a lot of energy and intrigue- the band have found great inspiration in this song. Wondering whether he can love and move on, there is determination and focus- our hero has not given up on things. Jesus Saves is a stunning closing statement. After its catchy and cool-as-hell lead-in- where funky guitars and bubbling electronics are tempted- the vocal is forceful and direct. Jesus will not save our man; the impure thoughts in his mind cannot be cleansed. Not worrying about consequences, the hero is looking for answers and directions- he has lost his soul and been torn up. Letting his girl go, you feel like things will not repair- we see the heroine running after the bad boys. Imbued with the catchiest and most foot-stomping kick, the song is insanely memorable- a definite festival gem-in-waiting. Mixing the sunniness of Pop; the grit and force of Indie and Alternative- with some Soul undertones- it is a wonderful concoction. The track superbly ends the E.P.- making the listener yearn for more. With every new review, I am afforded the opportunity to witness something fresh- music that a lot of people have not heard, We in the U.K. are seeing Canadian acts filtered through gradually- it is a shame that there is such a clog in the pipes. I know the media is keen to proclaim and promote homegrown acts; it seems that eyes are a bit short-sighted- it is incongruous and foolhardy to ignore such terrific music. Having surveyed the likes of The Tallest Tree and City and the Sea, I am being afforded first-hand opportunity to see some of the world’s most fascinating acts progress. Royal Tusk are a band that have really peaked my interest: it has been a long while since I have heard their particular brand of music. So many acts go straight for the bones: lace their music with heaviness and anthemic qualities- negating the importance of surprise and difference. With so many like-minded artists coming through, the greatest patronage will be paid to those that stand apart- the Canadian quintet have deftly and intelligently side-stepped musical pratfalls and pits. It will be interesting to see what they offer next year: if they will sojourn in the studio for another record- or take their music as far and wide as they can. I hope they can balance the two- it would be great to see Royal Tusk come over to the U.K. and give us an earful. Songs like Shadow of Love do not come around that often- E.P.s with Mountain‘s peaks are a rarity indeed. When these types of events do come along, it is vital we do not let them remain in the shadows and crumble to the sea- encourage them to flourish in the light (and consecrate their stature). For all the po-faced and uber-serious bands out there- they could learn a lot from the rugged and charming Royal Tusk. Not gravitated around a preening and pretentious figurehead, they are a galvanised collective: a pure musical force that are as weighty and dangerous as their name suggests. Before I leave you all, I will circle back to my original thesis: that interview with Wild Beasts. Although Hayden Thorpe’s crew are among the most inventive and stunning bands in the world, it is the truths and facts they expound that resonate hard- how many new acts do you see that stick long in the mind? Most of my review subjects have stuck with me; few mainstream acts deeply impress me- the occasional band have sufficient gravity and arsenal to do some talking. The real treats are going to (the acts and artists) poking from the underground quarters of new music- this is where the finest examples are shining. Hayden Thorpe stated- in the interview- how the choice of music- the sheer collection of historical sounds- is off-putting and daunting. He explained it in these terms: “It’s a huge privilege to make music now with such resources at hand, but equally it can be a weight.” I shouldn’t think the mighty Royal Tusk are intimidated by weight…

THEY are a mammoth, after all.


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