Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Written by: TL on 08/03/2017 13:09:25
Five years since their fifth album "Warriors" and Finnish electro-rockers Disco Ensemble are somehow back and in virtually the same shape as ever, which is sort of weird. Because if you think about it, they have such a youthful energy at the core of their sound, that the thought of a band sticking to it for 20 years is just a bit strange. Yet here they are with "Afterlife", and true to tradition, little has changed in their seemingly comfortable corner of the musical world.
Like a Billy Talent with video game noises and Scandinavian synths akin to those of Denmark's Carpark North, the quartet have been exceptionally consistent in their craft, and remain so on "Afterlife", for better and worse. It makes for a rush of joyful reacquaintance as the album kicks off with "Reality" and "Fight Forever", which reestablish the band's persistent knack for penning catchy tunes with energy levels surging to put a bounce in your step, and infectious melodies and lyrics - damned be the fact that keyboardist Miikka Koivisto's ever so slightly hoarse vocals, haven't exactly got the most range in the business. Back at the Billy Talent reference, Koivisto and Ben Kowalewicz are similar, not being the world's greatest singers, but having voices you always recognise and the charisma to get you listening anyway.
And with the exception of the electronic shenanigans that bring to mind Carpark North or Reptile Youth and put the 'disco' in the ensemble, the band's energy and strengths are similar to Billy Talent as well. They're at their best when they're rushing forward with a purposeful drive and a sense of rebelliousness in their songs. Yet they suffer from a similar weakness namely that this is pretty much all they do. Does anyone remember any Disco Ensemble ballads from any of their albums? Or really any track of theirs at all that doesn't immediately pick up your dancing shoes and shove them in your face?
You might say that there's nothing wrong with playing to their strengths, but it poses the problem that you have to be really damn consistent at that thing you do, otherwise the similarity in your songs will inevitably lead to a few standing out as clear highlights and the others rolling by as their more forgettable siblings. "Afterlife" adds a couple of the former with the opening duo and perhaps with the more aggressive "Face Down In A Fountain" and the swirling "Das Boot", which boasts a seriously sticky refrain.
Overall then, Disco Ensemble's newest opus flies by enjoyably as ever, without strikingly bad moments, yet still leaves a slight taste of ambivalence. On one hand there's something encouraging about how they manage to always come back with consistent reminders of what made you like the band in the first place, but on the other hand it's also always a bit disappointing to find a couple of new singles to add to the live repertoire and then get the impression of filler from the rest, instead of a more cohesive and varied album listen.
Download: Reality, Fight Forever, Das Boot
For The Fans Of: Carpark North, Reptile Youth, Billy Talent
Release date 27.01.2017
Sony Music Entertainment / Fullsteam Records