Saturday, October 22, 2011

Principe Valiente - S/T

As my friends well know, I have a soft spot for late ‘70’s and ‘80’s rock, particularly the bands who first delved into the darker, more atmospheric soundscapes.  Joy Division led the way and could have owned the dark side of rock had it not been for a number of innovative bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen, The Chameleons (UK), Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and others who have expanded the genre with their own unique visions, songs and arrangements.

The ‘90’s zeitgeist moved away from these gloom artists to more overtly angry forms of Grunge and Hip Hop.  Brooding gave way to screaming and luridly vivid lyrical explorations of urban decay set to a more urgent set of beats.

Now in our post-9/11 world, music has taken a more introspective turn.  Bands such as Interpol  and more recently The Xx began returning to the shadowy underground sound with ruminations steeped in the legacy of the early masters of gloom rock.  Enter Sweden’s Principe Valiente, whose  eponymous debut mines this rich vein of rock with a new vitality.

Principe Valiente opens with “Intro”, a solo piano prelude awash in reverberation and building to a crescendo leading into “Before You Knew Me”, a spare and pounding track driven by the drums of Joakim Janthe and Fernando Honorato’s muscular and riffy bassline.  Honorato also provides the vocals in his darkly rich baritone.  Floating over the top is a spare yet melodic guitar line by Alexander Lehto.   The song’s relentless beat comes to a sudden close with several pitched and distorted snare hits

Principe Valiente’s ten tracks following the intro sound like one long track with few distinguishing features from track to track.  This may read as a negative but actually serves to deliver a cohesive album that holds together well during a full listening.  At times, Honorato’s voice, with the tone and delivery of Bauhaus-era Peter Murphy, soars above the din like a gothic angel filling a candlelit cathedral with passion.  The arrangements are strong, hooky and dynamic.

Standout tracks are “In My Arms”, (video linked here)which opens with a gorgeous pair of rhythm guitars panned wide left and right with a chiming lead guitar part dead center which pulls you right into the song as the verse kicks in, and “The Night”, (video linked here) sounding like a vintage Martin Hannett Factory Records production, complete with deep warehouse ambience and dominant lead bassline Peter Hook would approve of.

Despite wearing their collective influences on their sleeves, Principe Valiente delivers a solid album that manages to sound modern and yet echoes with the reverb generated back in Manchester all those years ago.  I look forward to hearing more from this band.


Principe Valiente - In My Arms from Principe Valiente on Vimeo.

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