by Chris Jarvis
Following up on the incendiary Built on Our Backs EP in 2015, Darlington’s darlings of hardcore In Evil Hour are back, this time with their second full-length release – Lights Down. In the age of an emboldened far right, intensified hawkishness in the international military arena, and revelations of the worst excesses of neoliberalism with the likes of the Grenfell disaster, Lights Down is a much needed and timely response.
Oft compared to Rise Against, the likeness is evidenced right from the off in album opener Binding Ropes, whose thumping riff and blasting beats underpins frontwoman Alice’s trademark vocals oscillating between melodic lament and indignant growl. The latent anger oozing through each bar doesn’t cease as we move seamlessly into Enemy Within, as “From the day we’re born we’re taught to criminalise dissent” is tossed over yet more raw backing aggression. While guitarist Gareth might have lost his iconic shining black locks since the last outing, it’s clear this not emblematic of any mellowing or Samson-esque loss of strength.
Lights Down is a much needed and timely response
Refusing to drop the pace as the opening of Modern Detachment kicks in, at the three tracks in, it would be easy to feel a little breathless and tired. Thankfully, Bitter is a softer, slower and all round catchier track, with quiet breakdowns trickled throughout and anthemic choruses. A much needed moment of respite, before being jolted forward once again, with doubtless the loudest, hardest, most overtly political and ultimately best song Lights Down has to offer. An audio defibrillation, Paveway IV is lyrically as good a protest song as any – “The free press look round, war profiteers with no renown and lay down a line, between Government and market mind”, and musically as powerful as any of the greats of punk’s past. Capturing the remarkably elusive sweet spot equidistant between raw, unpolished energy and immaculate composition – the kind of area zone Petrol Girls and Refused have occupied time and time again – the first half of the release is wrapped up beautifully.
Much of the second half of Lights Down continues in a similar vein – the eternal limitation of hardcore music. My Excuse and Don’t Wake Up are far from filler, but don’t offer anything unique or new to the picture. It’s when the band suddenly explodes off the back of an irresistible bass hook that we’re suddenly reminded just how good In Evil Hour really are. 130 seconds of fury – “We’d slit their waiting throats and use the blood to nourish landscapes, so the scales fall from our eyes anew, and now they have no mandate – Build it Up is a true eruption of rage, followed by the equally excellent Revolution.
we’re suddenly reminded just how good In Evil Hour really are. 130 seconds of fury
As Lights Down draws to a close with We are the Lost it all comes a bit too soon. Barely 30 minutes in total, the release has a strange feeling of being a little incomplete. Or perhaps it just leaves you wanting more, made all the more apparent as the music uncharacteristically fades away, rather than ending abruptly. Either way, what is indisputable is that the enduring emotion when the final chords cease and the last words gasped is of anticipation.
Bell to bell, Lights Down is a stellar work. While it might not have as instantly memorable and infections moments like Progress or Divide and Conquer of previous releases – Lights Down is start to finish their best release to date. Unapologetically radical, tastefully brash, justifiably angry, effortlessly poetic, and intentionally provocative – the album is an immaculate reflection of what In Evil Hour are all about.
Lights Down is In Evil Hour’s second album, and is available on their Bandcamp. In Evil Hour are playing a series of shows throughout the autumn, including in Manchester, Derby and Munich. The band consists of Alice, Gareth, Gib and Mike.
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