New Model Army was formed in 1980 in Bradford, Yorkshire by singer/writer/guitarist Justin Sullivan, drummer Phil Tompkins (who left within a few months), and bassist Stuart Morrow.
It is necessary to mention here that the band’s main influences were Punk Rock and Northern Soul, among others.
Thirty-three years, 13 studio and 6 live albums, numerous singles and EPs, as well as 5-6 New Model Army compilations later, the band returns with their long-awaited new album titled “Between Dog and Wolf”.
Keeping their promise for something ‘very different’, the new album discovers new musical paths for the band using folk, punk, and northern soul elements, atmospheric soundscapes, and many other surprises for the listener.
“Between Dog and Wolf” was mixed by Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens Of The Stoneage, Bad Religion, and Soundgarden) in Los Angeles.
First thing’s first: For this album, drummer Michael Dean uses a custom built aluminum drum kit. It not only gives a great “clean” sound to the recording but it also, because of this new drum sound, looks like Dean explores lots of interesting new rhythms which give a touch of World music to the album. “Qasr El Nil Bridge” is one of those songs with its strong Middle Eastern flavor (this bridge connects downtown Cairo to Gezira Island and the Zamalek district – Egypt) mixed with an Andalusian flamenco atmosphere.
On this album, bassist/multi-instrumentalist Ceri Monger replaced Nelson who left the band for personal family reasons.
“Between Dog and Wolf” opens with the song “Horsemen” based on a galloping drum rhythm and backed by female vocals that add a smooth atmosphere to the song.
With the organ opening for “March In September” we feel a Northern Soul touch thanks to the violins in the background. A slightly distorted bass is added and the structure of the song is revealed little by little with guitars following…
The next track up, “Seven Times”, could become a classic NMA track but “Did You Make it Safe?” finds Sullivan to be in great shape lyrically. I find “Did You Make it Safe?” to be one of the best moments of the album. A passionate performance and a genius composition…
Dean comes up with another tribal rhythm on “I Need More Time”, slowly building the structure with a great bass line by Ceri Monger while Sullivan whispers “I need more time to make good all the promises I made to the world when the world was moving slower”. The stressful atmosphere gradually increases to the final crescendo by the guitar and organ.
Back to their favorite melodies with “Pull the Sun”. A whole different New Model Army galaxy with an absence of guitar sounds… which soon appear in the next song, the folkish “Lean Back and Fall”.
“Knievel” is a song about the lust of humans to witness another man risking his life… and on this occasion Sullivan uses the name of American daredevil Evel Knievel who suffered a lifetime of 433 broken bones and ultimately failed a jump over Snake River Canyon. “Did they come to see a man fall or to see him fly?” is the question… and what would one do for money?
Just like the title of the song implies, “Stormclouds” carries a sonic rain ready to break out with the guitars’ distorted breath lifting the listener higher and higher.
The title track “Between Dog and Wolf” sounds like a wolf growling. It sums up the general idea of the album’s music orientation finding the band experimenting with samples, a vibraphone, guitar feedback, and a distorted bass line.
“Tomorrow Came” sounds closer to the NMA sound we know more than the rest of the songs of the album, while “Summer Moors” is a beautiful ballad.
The album closes with the song “Ghosts”. An excellent choice to close a perfect album…
As the band states: “Meanwhile, BBC/Channel Four director, Matt Reid, has been putting together a documentary film about the group and trying to keep pace with all the events and changes that have happened during the filming process. A planned cinematic release will coincide with the release of the album.”
You can order the album from HERE