Now that the interweaving of rock and dance music is no longer considered the unholy hybrid it once was, naturally there are acts willing to push the possibilities as far as they’ll go. The Prodigy and Pendulum are the immediately prominent suggestions, but there seem to be more and more names popping up on the musical map. Brighton’s The Qemists are by no means the newest name to be birthed from such a crossover, but with their third full-length Warrior Sound being six years in the making, they finally seem to be making some waves.
Listening to Warrior Sound, it’s both easy and difficult to see why. On the one hand, The Qemists clearly know their way around making a clutch of solid, crunchy drum ‘n’ bass tunes, the likes of which are definitely evident here. But these are songs that sound like the most basic, repetitive genre template slightly tweaked every so often and called an album. It’s hard to begrudge them the fact that they’re obviously talented at what they do – drum ‘n’ bass is ludicrously repetitive as it is, so fair play to The Qemists for at least attempting to inject some diversity into their sound. Let It Burn is a genuinely interesting take on the sound with its bouncy beat and choppy guitars offering a brief reprieve from the drum ‘n’ bass onslaught, while Anger‘s grimy electronics and gut-punch of a chorus from Crossfaith’s Ken Koie is a real album highlight.
It’s in moments like this where the envelope is pushed a bit where The Qemists really feel like an interesting proposition, but these are far too fleeting for that to be a consistent consensus. Far too often on Warrior Sound, they unwaveringly cave to genre tropes for an album that feels repetitive in the extreme. It’s not even that these are bad songs – there’s a boiling vehemence in Run You that shows a welcome confrontational nature, and Charlie Rhymes’ vocals add a bit of a soul tinge to Push The Line. But the vast majority of the album uses the standard drum ‘n’ bass beat as its backdrop, and thus becomes a slog to listen to all the way through. The Qemists are clearly talented musicians in their fusion of rock and dance in such a seamless way as they have here, but it feels all too often as though they’re playing it safe, and the album suffers as a result.
The argument could be made that Warrior Sound fits the purpose of a drum ‘n’ bass album in its repetitiveness, serving as a healthy slice of dumb party music. And that would be fine if The Qemists didn’t regularly shoot themselves in the foot with the inclusion of overtly socio-political themes. Rapper Ghetts’ verses on No Respect clearly paint a picture of social consciousness, while the title track’s vocal sample concerning war and privilege is completely at odds with the generic beat of its instrumental. It’s in moments like this where it seems like The Qemists are unsure of what they want to be. The rock elements of their sound surface in these themes more than anything, but the overly rehashed beats that underpin them dull their blow by a colossal degree.
That being the case makes Warrior Sound feel like an album that restricts itself too much. There’s a spark here, and The Qemists have a knack for crafting solid drum ‘n’ bass, but they end up playing it safe too often, making for an album that fails to click for at least half of its runtime. And for an album that’s been six years in the making, that’s hardly something to be proud of. Still, for an album to become stale before even the first full listen is an achievement in itself.
For fans of: Pendulum, Hadouken!, Noisia
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Warrior Sound’ by The Qemists is out now on Amazing Record Company.