As Everything Unfolds – ‘ULTRAVIOLET’

By Ian Kenworthy

Two years after their debut, As Everything Unfolds are streamlined and stepping back into the spotlight. This time, they’re looking beyond the visible spectrum but let’s not get bogged down with puns and instead shine a light on new album ‘Ultraviolet’.

The opening self-titled track is ideal; It’s explosive, hard-hitting, and re-establishes the band’s sound. It’s post hardcore, it’s metal-influenced, there’s keyboards, there’s a huge catchy chorus and even tug-of-war screams. The whole thing is elegantly chaotic, but listen close and there’s something else –record-scratches. When was the last time that was cool? The late nineties maybe? This tells us three things: This isn’t a band trying to be cool, they’re doing what feels right, and they’re embracing nu-metal.

All of which makes sense. The band’s second guitarist left and they never replaced him. Instead, the quintet are working with what they have rather than around it. In practice, this means Adam Kerr now uses a thick, groovy guitar sound to fill the space, and this gives the whole record a different feel to their previous work. It’s a gentle reinvention – bolder and less ‘metal-y’ without losing sight of what made their debut record so good. The results are confident, assured and quite often inspired.

Adrenaline pulses through the album’s veins and while it doesn’t go as far as Dream State’s new EP, there’s definite overlap in the approach, one might even compare it to Architects’ recent output. Designated synth player Jon Cass is the band’s secret weapon; after all, tonnes of bands use synth tracks in their music, but here they’re carefully deployed to enhance the songs in different ways. From the dancefloor vibe of ‘Felt Like Home’ to the haunting tone lurking on ‘Blossom’, Cass’s contributions cleverly interact with the guitars to provide a canvas for Charlie Rolfe to sing over. In fact, everyone involved has taken a step up – especially drummer Jamie Gowers. There’s a tastefulness and restraint to his work, supporting the songs in ways he hasn’t before. It’s an effect enhanced by the overall production, making everything rounded and less harsh, especially on those snare hits.

It’s not flawless – ‘Rose Bouquets’ tries to be the album’s ballad (much like ‘Wither’ on their debut) and it’s fine but by being stripped back, it leans heavily on its chorus and here Rolfe’s repeats of an “ay” sound three times in a short space make it feel awkward and unbalanced. It’s an outlier because every other song is effective and has the potential to be a single.

Largely, this is because there’s a punchiness to the songwriting, with big riffs, breakdowns, and hook-filled choruses. By shuffling these various elements around in a number of interesting ways, they keep the record engaging as a whole, so if you’re looking for some punishing riffs the opening to ‘Flip Side’ should suffice but ‘Ultraviolet’ or ‘Blossom’ can be just as crushing once they’re underway. Elsewhere, the playful riff on ‘Saint Or Rogue’ provides an interesting contrast and even the instrumental ‘Infrared’ is surprisingly stressful during its machine-like march.

One key characteristic is the use of a scenic interlude to lead into a breakdown. Notable on ‘Slow Down’, it is perhaps most effective on ‘Twilight’ where the frivolous, almost carefree, verse gives way into an atmospheric, then nigh-on evil pre-chorus pummelling. It’s a chaotic display and it’s impressive that the band make it at all work, especially as the lyrics provide a dark contrast to the bright verse.

Charlie Rolfe cites Hayley Williams as an influence on her vocal style and you can hear it in the way she creates big choruses, but also screams with an intensity that evokes Employed To Serve’s Justine Jones. It’s a skilful contrast and she’s working hard to carve her own style, especially on ‘Felt Like Home’ where she pushes high notes into territory she has never explored before; and again on ‘Blossom’ where her forced pronunciation creates an unexpected hook. Lyrically, she has discussed photography and using a darkroom as inspiration for this album. You can hear this most obviously on ‘Twilight’ or ‘Ultraviolet’ as it isn’t foregrounded on every track and, despite falling back on her calling card of flower metaphors, she clearly has a message to convey.

By the time we reach ‘Daylight’ the mood shifts. It’s an unhurried and atmospheric track relying on simple keyboard flourishes and a repetition of its title to induce a druglike state. Here, by pushing their established sound to breaking point, they create what might just be their most resonant song. It’s surprising then, that they return to the established status quo with ‘All I’ve Ever Known’, a song so stereotypical of their work even the title feels knowing. It’s a worthwhile addition despite the lyricism abutting oddly with the songs around it.

As Everything Unfolds are brimming with confidence. ‘Ultraviolet’ trades the intimacy of their debut for a sound that’s bigger, bolder and emotionally resonant. It’s guaranteed to light up your life.

IAN KENWORTHY

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