It’s not too unfair to say that, up to now, Of Allies have really done very little beyond conform to the standards usually set by this form of Britrock. They’re a bit more adventurous than the hyper-earnest pop-rock that’s still floating around within the genre, sure, but a handful of added alt-metal tones hasn’t ever made that much of a difference, and it’s left them as just another band whose name has been floating around for a while, but for whom it’s borderline impossible to actually attribute a certain song to. That might sound harsh, but it’s not like it’s untrue either; Of Allies are unequivocally yet to have their defining moment, and that’s resulted in a band who’ve felt as though they’ve been treading water for a while now. Even with an album like Are We Better Off?, which does look to shoot a bit higher than what they’ve done in the past, that mid-December release date has been a death sentence for many in the past, and for a band like this who’ve struggled to pick up some leverage in the past regardless of the circumstances, that can be a genuine issue.
But at the same time, it’s not like Of Allies are incompetent in what they’re doing, and with a hefty bit of luck above anything else, there is a chance that Are We Better Off? could have some residual impact into the new year and get those ripples growing into something more. Luck does feel like the defining factor in that though, as it’s not like Of Allies are really pushing the boat out here, nor are they coming out with a sound that’s all that unique or exciting in the current alt-rock climate. It’s as undeniably competent as always, and to be totally fair, the peppering of slightly heavier dynamics does nudge them forward a bit, but Are We Better Off? just feels like another one of these albums, capable of hitting loftier heights about four or five years ago, but now just feeling kind of pedestrian above anything else.
To their absolute credit though, it’s not like Of Allies have no idea what they’re doing here either. There’s definitely a sense of deeper, more resonant messaging in the songwriting this time around with tracks like An Echo (Or Nothing), and the heavier, wider guitar landscapes and thicker crunch of it all on Blossoms and Still Memory is pretty good at emulating that mood to get the most from it. As far as melodic rock goes, there have been far worse examples made by bands with far more experience, and from a technical viewpoint alone, there’s a lot to like about the direction that Of Allies go in here, especially when they’re drifting closer to the Deftones-adjacent territory of a band like Fightstar. The problem comes when they’ve got little else to really offer, and not only does that result in an album that really can drag at fourteen tracks without a whole lot of modulation, but it hems in a sound that, to many, could already be seen as rather limited. The Britrock rooting is undeniable, and when Of Allies hammer this sound so drastically amongst it, it makes so many of the intrinsic flaws of that scene feel much more noticeable. Top of the list is the production, which might benefit the more open-ended, cinematic swell that doubles up as a more tense backdrop, but when everything feels pressed right against the front of the mix, it emphasises how much of a chore this album can be to get through at points, regardless of how hard a particular hook may connect. In all honesty, even that doesn’t happen as much as would be liked, but at least with a solid melodic instinct through, Of Allies can reach the end with something not quite a bang, but not a whimper either.
At the end of the day though, it still needs to be much better than this if Of Allies really want to make waves within a UK rock scene that’s currently more competitive than ever. That’s not to say that Are We Better Off? is a bad album, but it’s lacking a lot of the necessary means to really great things, and at the minute, it doesn’t even feel as though Of Allies themselves are convinced that they can muster them up. Again, the fact they’re going slightly ahead of the bare minimum is a start, but that’s hardly the most glowing recommendation of an album that, in itself, doesn’t stand out much at all, and as harsh as it might sound, it’s that exact thing that’s going to cause Of Allies to continue to fall by the wayside.
For fans of: Fightstar, Biffy Clyro, We Are The Ocean
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Are We Better Off?’ by Of Allies is released on 13th December.