With older bands making new albums, the outcome is usually one of two results. The first is to half-arse their way through an album, get it out as quick as possible regardless of quality and coast by on legacy alone. The second is to do what Belvedere have done on this album – throw pretension clear out the window and carry on as though you’d never left off. The Revenge Of The Fifth may be Belvedere’s first album in over a decade but you really wouldn’t be able to tell – over twenty years in, the Canadian skate-punks are still making solid music that would slot in seamlessly within their early 2000s heyday.
This, the band’s fifth full-length album (clever, eh?) is unarguably a skate-punk album, meaning that it does meet a specific set of conditions. The typical pacey drumbeats and technically impressive riffs are all there, but what makes The Revenge Of The Fifth most impressive is the amount of energy and vibrancy that’s been retained. This is a band that first formed over twenty years ago, but this album really feels like a bright-eyed, young band looking to make an impression, such is the level of exuberance on offer. Opener Shipwreck gets the ball rolling nice and early with its galloping riff-and-drum combo for a song that would be right at home on any Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, while Delicastressin packs in a really solid melodic foundation and fretwork far more intricate and complex than what is usually associated with a punk band.
It’s very much a throwback album; any search for innovation or new ground to be broken will come up fruitless, and it’s perhaps because of that that some tracks like The Architect feel very standard, or have no real defining features. It’s not really a problem though, as Belvedere’s experience comes to the fore. Steve Rawles’ unpolished yet still equable vocals give a very accessible edge to the likes of Red Pawn’s Race – which has possibly the best hook on the entire album – while the darker tinge of the title track, coupled with a surprisingly dexterous guitar solo, only sees the band impress even more.
When the pick-up-and-play nature is too much of a defining feature, though, the album stumbles. This is evidenced in tracks like Transmissions and especially As Above, So Below, often sub-two minute blasts of punk fury that feel more like fragments of songs than anything else. They feel especially superfluous when put into context and placed next to the album’s more instrumentally adventurous numbers, and while they’ve probably been included to show that Belvedere still have the skill and fire to take part in what is often considered a young man’s game, but they really don’t serve any sort of purpose. It’s a similar case with closing track Generation Debt – for some baffling reason, after an album of white-hot punk shredding, Belvedere shape this one as a mid-tempo attempt at a Rise Against-style epic. Suffice to say, it doesn’t work.
But you really can’t fault them for trying. It goes back to the original point – The Revenge Of The Fifth could have easily seen Belvedere resting on their laurels and churning out a perfunctory new album to sate the die-hards. Instead, this is an album as worthy of the Belvedere name as any other, and while it’s not a classic, no one really expected it to be. The Revenge Of The Fifth is just an incredibly solid punk album, no more, no less. And right now, that’s perfectly fine.
For fans of: NOFX, Millencolin, A Wilhelm Scream
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Revenge Of The Fifth’ by Belvedere is released on 5th May on Lockjaw Records.