Forgive me for breaking the journalistic fourth wall, but I must admit that this is my first album review since our fragile world was riddled with a pandemic and all other manner of 2020-ness (because that is now officially an adjective, I believe). So, for my first review with my new black-tinted view of the world, to land on an album that so masterfully pins the tail on the donkey of 2020 prophecy within its first track well and truly turned my head – not to mention its plethora of hard-hitting riffs, immersive atmosphere and vocals that are impeccable in melody and emotion.
Within its first 2 minutes, Violent Allies (due to be released on 18th September on Mascot Records) sums up 2020 with several lines of shrewd lyricism from vocalist Jesse Hasek in opener “The Shift” (try “we are a violent virus without a remedy”, or “all that we’ve managed to make is just a comfortable cage”, or “we go from silence to sirens”) – and there was no way he could have been aware he’d done so at the time of writing. Though, through “The Shift”, Hasek confirms that the band were “looking at the state of the world”, this was during their studio time in Autumn 2019 and was centred more on the idea of humanity as a virus to the Earth; it just so happens that karma has hit us back.
Though the release schedule has felt achingly barren this year, hand-in-hand with lockdown ghost town vibes, rock fans and 10 Years fans alike can be safe in the knowledge that Violent Allies is a welcome addition to 2020. Violent Allies isn’t an album of cheap, fast instant gratification – it’s a slow-burning head-turner that cocoons the listener with each listen as they sink deeper into its thick, melodic texture layered under Hasek’s thoughtful lyricism. As such, this affords favourite tracks to arise day by day until every track on the album worms its way into the listener’s list of favourites.
Violent Allies supplies contentment whether the listener is zoned out and simply floating on its atmosphere, occasionally tuning in to ponder notably shining lines (a special hello here to “how did we end up here, sifting through our own ashes” on “The Unknown”), or fully honed in on each layer of each track. Offering plenty to sonically explore, Violent Allies is hulking with the grunge and grit of Brian Vodinh and Matt Wantland’s bass and guitar, but also paints a cosmic dreamscape with light, ethereal, tones and twinkles from Wantland’s synth programming (a juxtaposition epitomised perfectly in stand-out track “Sleep In The Fire”).
10 Years’ sound remains rooted in their 00s rock origins yet avoids a stale taste, a feat which is bolstered via the sleek production from GRAMMY-award winning Howard Benson (Halestorm, Seether, Theory Of A Deadman). The album also sees 10 Years holding true to their aptitude in bold, anthemic choruses, with “Waiting” and “Cut The Cord” due to be excellent live tracks in this respect. In the realm of instrumentals, “Planets I” and “Planets II” (hidden as interludes within 10 Years’ Division ) see their counterparts appear on Violent Allies with “Planets III” and “Planets IV”. Holding a dark fragility, these serve as beautiful interlude tracks, entering majestically rich timbres so often welcomed by the likes of Opeth, but within a more futuristically toned aura. The album comes to a striking close with the heartfelt “Say Goodbye”, a poem of grief’s selfish nature that employs a tribal rhythm, glinting guitar and vocals singed with bittersweet honey.
Though written months in advance of the current dystopia we’re living in today, 10 Years have produced an album to memorably punctuate 2020. It’s lonely, it’s melancholic, it’s wounded, it’s tinged with hope and it’s crying out for unity.