Having scattered themselves around the country following the release of their debut album, the five-piece (originally from Leeds) Killing Fields of Ontario have made a welcome return with sophomore effort ‘How the World Ends’. Having played with acclaimed folk-pop bands like Sparrow and the Workshop and Broken Records, the record promises a more sprawling sound than before.
The pummelling drums and thunderous opening of ‘Twisted Little Theatre’ certainly hint this is the case. A massive sound that still retains its folk aesthetics, Tom Brewster sings: ‘There’s pictures of your heroes hanging on the wall’ in anguished fashion that instantly grabs you. By the time you reach the closing repeated refrain of ‘It’s not happening again’, you’re worn out, even though the song is tantalisingly short. With nods to the great oddball pop bands of the 60s and 70s throughout the record, ‘Nothing to be Frightened Of’ even has a slight nod to a famous Beatles song: ‘You came along with your diamond eyes and showed me how to shine the sky’. Despite a frantic opening half, the song settles down when it hits three minutes, the skiffle clapalong being replaced by gentle acoustic strums, wonderful harmonies and soothing piano.
Elliott Smith-style acoustic mourning opens ‘When We Were Born’ before making way to a guitar-pop anthem with a distinctly Britpop flavour. As well as this love of this nation’s music, the band’s passion for Americana and some of the great singer-songwriters and bands from the other side of the Atlantic shines through. The blue-collar spirit of Springsteen and Petty looms large over the entire record, especially on ‘Creeper’ and the 7 ½-minute title track.
‘Weight’ recalls Frightened Rabbit’s talent for providing instrospective lyrics about mortality in an accessible manner: ‘I resurrected the dead and forgot the living’, while the instrumentation has the essence of the Decemberists or Annuals. Religion is a theme that carries across the album, as Brewster discusses God many times and, in the closing ‘God or Country’ how he doesn’t believe. The songs also showcase his impressive and impassioned vocal range, which is especially affecting when delivering lyrics like: ‘Spill me out into the cold English range’.
Heartfelt, honest and with the occasional sing-along moment, ‘How the World Ends’ is a bleak but ultimately uplifting album that will appeal to fans of indie-folk. A band with a huge passion for their songwriting craft, this is summed up by album highlight ‘Our Place to Drown’, which, despite its dark title and subject matter including gargoyles and dying alone, manages to evolve into a euphoric and fist-pumping achievement. An extremely accomplished record.
‘How the World Ends’ is out on 4 November, via KFoO Records.