Dry The River draw on a surprising post-punk and hardcore background to create a powerful blend of melodic folk and bruising epic stadium rock. 'Shallow Bed' follows up last November's 'Weights & Measures' EP and it looks set to tip the scales...
Formed in 2009 after a successful solo tour, singer-songwriter Peter Liddle recruited four mates of his teenage years from the then extant Newbury and Reading home-brewed punk band scene. Initially, he fought to keep the sound lo-fi and chilled: distinct from the heavier bands they'd been involved in before. Despite Liddle's best efforts they discovered they couldn't stop themselves from rocking out when playing live.
It's a sound that can leap in dynamics from the sunnier side of the Laurel Canyon to a crunching wall of noise favoured by the likes of Survive Atlantica. The immediate comparison being bandied about is to Mumford and Sons, but that's only skin deep. There's loads of other bands you could say their sound evokes too. After all, at heart this is big sounding, grandiose, folk-tinged, indie-rock music. The type that festival crowds swarm in droves to. For my part, I'd say you can hear shades of the Fleet Foxes, a little bit of Elbow, some Death Cab for Cutie, and touches of Spiritualised even. Liddle's remarkable choir boy falsetto also adds an ethereal quality to the music and comparisons could be made to Jeff Buckley's or Thom Yorke's bell-like timbres.
Opening track 'Animal Skins' sets the tone for what's to come: a big murky bassline and drums boom whilst Liddle wails over soaring violin, “With animal skins we go home”, it's rootsy-Americana folk-rock that could have come from the likes of Yeasayer. 'New Ceremony' follows and is a much stronger track, it builds from delicate acoustic fingerpicking to a stormer of a chorus with chugging power chords and epic strings. 'Shield Your Eyes' is lovely too, despite some disconcerting warbling about “Phrygian lions.” Liddle's penchant for biblical imagery produces some novel choruses.
At times, it feels like it might have been better to hold back on the guitars. The real highlight of the album, is in the middle. 'Demons' opens with sparse organ chords and builds up to a lush orchestral climax with more than enough intensity without the distortion. The track merges into 'Bible Belt' beautifully, which builds up it's own beautiful crescendo of horns. It's intense and melancholic, but sometimes that's no bad thing.
It's album loaded with powerful songs. 'Weights and Measures' is an unabashed epic with lovesick lyrics documenting a painful breakup, “I was prepared to love you, and never expect anything of you”, Liddle wails, “Baby, there aint no sword in our lake. Just a funeral wake.”
C'mon son. Chin up.
Despite the maudlin proclivities, this is a powerful debut that aims high. It is best suited for big speakers and suggests that seeing them live might be the best way to get the full sonic impact. These are a collection of well-crafted, intelligent and emotive songs that is remarkable for a debut record. If they can make their sound a bit more their own, there will be no stopping them.