Straight-up hard rock has been starved of critical and commercial notice as of late in favour of its more cutting-edge counterparts. And while in some cases that’s warranted, with large numbers of said bands being either rehashed versions of each other or acts who get by by raiding the vaults of yesteryear’s riff-rock, there are definitely exceptions. Such negligence means that bands like The Manic Shine can end up slipping through the net, especially unfortunate considering how new album Trial And Triumph manages to breathe new life to a genre in serious danger of becoming stale.
The reason for that is, while Trial And Triumph is undoubtedly a hard rock album, it manages to avoid the same genre tropes as bands like Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with either of those bands, but becoming formulaic can become a worry. Not with The Manic Shine though – there’s a much deeper pool of influences found throughout this album, with references being everywhere from Soundgarden to Tool to Rage Against The Machine. It makes for an album that is definitely multifaceted and eclectic, but keeps itself firmly anchored down to stop itself straying too far into uncharted territory. Brakes combines intricate fretwork with a gaze that’s locked in on arenas, while I Don’t Wanna Hear It packs plenty of bite into its grimy, low-slung riffs, and Hold On (Together We’ll Keep Dreaming) feels like a grand statement, but not so much so that it becomes a parody of itself. That’s the thing about this album – it never resorts to self-aggrandisement and is all the better because of it.
It also helps that this is a band that consists of four brilliant players. Frontman Ozzie Rodgers has a Chris Cornell-size pair of lungs on him (useful for belting out the soaring likes of Blind Love) while the dual guitars of Rodgers and Orren Karp are the backbone of the whole record, injecting a few extra miles of drive into the metallic grooves of Binary and the searing centrepiece Orbit. It’s an album of a considerably high watermark throughout that is consistently met thanks to a noticeably protean playing style and unashamed pop sensibilities, meaning it never outstays its welcome and maintains the same level of punch throughout.
If there is a complaint to be made, it would be that there are a couple of moments that feel a bit stagnant and could do with the same coat of paint of the rest of the album, but that’s incredibly minor compared to what some recent hard rock albums have offered. Instead, Trial And Triumph is a welcome addition to Britain’s hard rock roster – it’s aware of its surroundings, malleable and, crucially, manages to fill in a pocket of the scene that has been thus far sparsely inhabited. Give it a couple of months to ferment going into the new year, and there’s every chance that The Manic Shine could be one of the new names of 2016.
For fans of: Soundgarden, Alter Bridge, A Perfect Circle
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Trial And Triumph’ by The Manic Shine is released on 13th November.