Album Review: Vennart - 'The Demon Joke' & UK Headline Tour Dates.

MASSIVE DISCLAIMER: I’m going to start this review by stating that I was/am a huge Oceansize fan. They were a band that meant something to me, and I mourn their decision to call it a day (in February 2011) more than is strictly healthy. Four wonderful albums and three EPs showcasing just how exciting, intricate and damn clever UK progressive rock music can be. But things move on, especially for Mike Vennart, ex-Oceansize frontman, touring guitarist for some little-known Scottish outfit called Biffy Clyro and, now, delivering new music in the form of Vennart.

It’s tempting to make immediate comparisons between Vennart’s debut album ‘The Demon Joke’ and his previous musical output - especially in light of ex-’Size members Richard ‘Gambler’ Ingram and Steve Durose lending a hand to proceedings. Indeed, any hope of grounding expectations are washed away in the first thirty-or-so seconds, with the wonderful, optimistic-sounding ‘255’, all big chords, heartfelt melodies and waves of guitar/synth greeting the listener. Things are brought crashing to a premature close with the distorted intro of ‘Doubt’, building on rhythmic guitar and proggy keyboard to deliver the first big riff moment of the album. However, never one to rest on his musical laurels, Vennart moulds the song into an altogether different beast via a climactic guitar solo.

The melodies of ‘Infatuate‘ hint at former glories, perhaps inevitable given its dose of distinctive vocals, interweaving guitar and complex drumming courtesy of ex-Ginger Wildheart drummer Denzel. However, as the album develops an altogether different feel emerges, ebbing and flowing from big guitar moments and welcome splashes of varied keyboard (‘Duke Fame’ and ‘Retaliate, the latter providing further evidence of Vennart’s knack for a belting Faith No More-esque rock chorus), to moments of relative calm (‘Don’t Forget The Joker’, ‘Rebirthmark’).

Two particular strengths of ‘The Demon Joke‘ (as displayed so spectacularly on Oceansize’s ‘Everyone Into Position’ album) are the ability to craft emotive songs out of delicate guitar passages, and utterly brilliant album closing tracks. ‘A Weight in The Hollow‘ is simply perfect, demanding the listener to stop and listen to its unrestrained beauty. Following on, ‘Operate‘ delivers the album’s perhaps most epic moment, a song that the UK airwaves in general aren’t worthy to showcase (also check out the animated video!). The album concludes with the comedown of ‘Amends‘, delivering a graceful yet satisfying ending.

I’ve tried to remain unbiased. I really really wanted this to be good. But it’s better than that. It’s absolutely fantastic. And exciting. And intricate. And damn clever. Beyond recommended.

Album review by DS_Convertible

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