Quiet Lions – ‘Absenteeism’ album review

Quiet Lions Jumping Ships Absenteeism new album review Lonely Voyage Bandcamp

We’ve all been eagerly awaiting the debut album from Quiet Lions for quite some time now and recent singles ‘Echo Chamber’ and ‘Wasteland’ have just whet the anticipation even more. Based around social and political issues, they hinted at the overriding theme of isolation and dissociation in today’s digital world that can be found throughout the LP ‘Absenteeism’. Released via Lonely Voyage Records (Lost in the Riots/Poly-Math) and recorded at Brighton Electric and Small Pond Studios with Mark Roberts the 12 songs find frontman Michael Williams opening up more than ever before.

There’s a Bright Eyes feel in the melodic and calming introductory opener that soon makes way for feedback and riffs that signal the opening of ‘Echo Chamber’. With its tumbling guitar riffs, prog-driven breakdown and assertive lyrics about a cavalry arriving at your door (‘Don’t shy away, smile and enjoy the ride’) it’s a song full of uncertainty and darkness, especially when Michael finishes by repeating the words ‘Suffer this’. ‘Broken Bed of Stone’ finds the Brighton/London four-piece dipping into more mathy territory with Oli Austen’s powerful drums backing up Michael’s Vennart-esque observations about becoming a martyr. Following this is the recent single ‘Wasteland’. Released in the week of the European elections, it’s an anthemic piece that pushes how important it is to make sure your voice is heard, even if it feels futile: ‘Don’t let the dreamers down’.

Inspired by a friend of Michael’s who’d lost their way, the melodic rock of ‘Lighthouse’ finds the band trying to help someone manage their addictions: ‘Open up your eyes, the day is passing by. All you want to know is where the ivy grows to free you from your vices’. However, there are others pushing for the opposite: ‘A voice out in the hall waiting for your call, leading you astray’. There’s a much-appreciated Hundred Reasons-grappling-with-Biffy feel to the opening of ‘Youth in Question’, a song that looks at publich shaming and the gang mentality that grows alongside it: ‘For now you are responsible, is that what you had planned? Just to be part of the crowd, goading him to hit the ground’. Things get a lot heavier in the opening riffs to ‘Arc of the Horizon’ – and the vocals are spat out with venom to match as it touches upon the disgrace of politics and possibly our treatment of the environment: ‘We took the sky for granted and saw it fall apart’. With its quiet-loud anthem hints of Fatherson, ‘Chancer’ is all about a character (who’s already made an appearance in ‘Echo Chamber’) who puts personal gain ahead of everything else: ‘We have up the ghost as soon as our trust became abused’… Sound familiar?

‘Epitaph’ signals the final run of the record with its talk about a beast’s rise to the top and subsequent fall from grace while ‘Field of Influence’ opens in dramatic, eerie and intense fashion. There seems to be an air of resignation in Michael’s voice as he gently advises: ‘Walk the field of influence and try to clear your mind’ before then delivering the same line with far more confidence and gusto. The closing ‘Powerless at Sea’ opens with gently swaying guitar hooks as the band tackle the role of social media and ‘influencers’ in today’s world – and how trends can change so quickly: ‘Your fairweather friends… Will they stay behind when you’re left out in the rain?’ As the lyrics get bleaker with talk of sitting in silence and feeling powerless – and the draining effects this can have on mental health – the music swirls into a grand crescendo that recalls Mew or Agent Fresco before settling back into a haze of drone-led noise and feedback.

On ‘Absenteeism’, Quiet Lions have laid bare their concerns about modern life with powerful riffs and hooks that will stay in your head for days. Hear them roar.

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