Crazy Arm – Dark Hands, Thunderbolts

By Tom Aylott

Crazy Arm’s fourth long player ‘Dark Hands, Thunderbolts’ arrives after four long years in the making. Less hot on the heels and more cold on the calves of 2013’s ‘The Southern Wild’, the fourteen track album has been a true labour of love for the Devon outfit-cum-collective, who are now 15 years young and (up to) 16 members strong.

Despite being slow to the stables, ‘Dark Hands, Thunderbolts’ is blisteringly fast out of the paddock, bursting to life with opener ‘Montenegro’ – an urgent and signature battle cry of blues, folk, roots and punk. Crazy Arm’s sound has long reached maturity and accomplishment, but it’s clear from this opening track and the towering harmonies and chaotic instrumentation of ‘Blessed & Cursed’ that the band are residing at the height of their talents.

Crazy Arm are firing on all cylinders musically and lyrically throughout, whether they’re sombre (‘Fear Up’) or mustering a manic and anthemic call to arms (‘Brave Starts Here’). The latter is a made for festivals (remember those?) punk rock barn dance, and delivers a stark reminder that positive change in the world very much starts at home.

In an age where capturing short attention spans with playlisted singles and social media reach is often the focus, the crafting of a well formed album is sometimes forgotten – but Crazy Arm have always been fantastic at constructing a body of work.

There’s little or nothing on done by accident or with a “that’ll do” attitude on ‘Dark Hands, Thunderbolts’ – each crescendo and dynamic shift is purposeful and measured (as you may expect from an album four years in the making), particularly where the band release tension excellently (in the brace of interludes ‘Dearborn’ and ‘Paradiso’), let loose entirely (‘Trail of Meds’) or indulge in reflective sway (‘Epicurean Firestorm’). The entire record swirls with foreboding harmonies and towering instrumentation, thick with arrangements that should be the envy of any songwriter worth their salt.

If you’re looking for a record with oceans of depth, boundless energy and a big heart to kick start your year, look no further. Crazy Arm have taken their sweet time with ‘Dark Hands, Thunderbolts’, but it’s more than worth the wait. This is a unique band at their very best, delivering a rich and meaningful howl at the moon just when we all need it.

TOM AYLOTT

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