Viva la revolution!
Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer and Anvil
Pure Reason Revolution return with their third full length offering 'Hammer and Anvil'. Having burst onto the scene a few years back with a series of impressive singles and a quite brilliant debut album ('The Dark Third'), they subsequently changed direction from contemporary prog rock to electronica on second album 'Amor Vincit Omnia'. This had fans split down the middle, some embraced the new direction whilst others recoiled in horror at such a drastic change.
There were a lot of things wrong with the second album, partly because it was always going to be hard to live up to such an impressive debut but the difference from 'The Dark Third' was too great both in terms of production and the overall direction. 'Hammer and Anvil' redresses the balance a little, certainly the production is greatly improved, still not as lavish or lush as the early work but it has a much fuller sound than it's predecessor. It also brings back more of the big sounding choruses that were such a part of the early songs (second track 'Black Mourning' for example) and opener 'Fight Fire' is a big enough song to get any head nodding.
Overall the quality of songs is better, there aren't really any duff tracks (although 'Over the Top' comes close!) and there is a much heavier feel flowing through the album than there was on 'Amor Vincit Omnia'. The difference this makes can't be understated as it really beefs up the electronica and when it's in full flow on tracks like 'Last Man Last Round' it's quite brilliant. PRR wouldn't be the band they are without the tight vocal harmonies of bassist and singer Chloe Alper and they are to the fore throughout this album. It's all the better for it as they give the band an extra dimension that so many other bands lack and in many ways it's these harmonies that are the crux of the band's sound.
Having researched his ancestors part in World War I, singer and guitarist John Courtney has let the influence permeate the album with plenty of war influenced lyrics and song titles. This could have been pretty disastrous but thankfully it works and he successfully manages to avoid any cringeworthy lyrics that seem almost a requirement of war themed songs.
Fans of the first album will probably find enough here to bring them back into the fold, this sounds like the album they should have made before 'Amor Vincit Omnia' not after it! More in keeping with their roots but still layered with lashings of electronica, it's a fine piece of work that fuses prog and electronica at every turn and makes it work.