REVIEW: Madina Lake – World War III


Artist: Madina Lake
Album: World War III
Genre: Rock
Label: Sony / Razor & Tie

I happened to see Madina Lake live on the Kerrang! tour several years ago. The only incident I recall from their performance is lead singer Nathan Leone being kidnapped by the crowd, having to be rescued about 10 minutes later by some burly security staff, and being bundled back on stage without a shoe. Suffice to say, they’ve never really been my cup of tea, but I shall give them credit for this latest album. Much like Aiden’s Disguises earlier this year, it’s a bit of a pleasant surprise, finding a happy balance between the morose moping that normally afflicts groups of this scene and some genuinely rather good songs. I’ve divided the album into three distinct parts for the purposes of this review – “Party on!,” “Heavyette,” and “Woe is me.”

The “Party on!” section refers to some of the more shamelessly dance-y tunes – an occasionally odd but rewarding approach that imbues the better songs with a bizarre infectiousness. “Hey Superstar” for instance opens with a gutsy solo, tinged with bittersweet, and a hint of synth and programming. A phalanx of backing guitars then join the fray, before everything’s stripped back in the rhythmic verses, which set a good strong beat and pace. The drums are demanding and urgent, and the chorus hints at all kinds of fury. There are some brief glimpses of screaming later on, making the song a touch more caustic and hardhitting than the ever-present backing solo would imply. It’s catchy, and memorable, as is its follow up “Fireworks.” This too has an instantly catchy beat, a bit disco, a bit r’n’b, a surprising amount of fun. It maintains the techno-esque thrills throughout and sets some amazing dancefloor credentials. Imagine something in the vein of Good Charlotte’s “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl” – it’s not quite as much fun but has a similar sensibility. Something you can easily imagine in the background of a glossy teenaged American show, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Later on, “Heroine” is very intense. It uses a short running time to emit a kaleidoscopic burst of energy and pyrotechnics, one that doesn’t always live up to its partying aspirations but which provides a thrilling soundtrack for a guilty bop.

The “Woe is me” section is what I’ll use to describe the more saccharine offerings. These vary from quite hideous to likeable in a guilty way. “We Got This” is very much in the vein of the Madina Lake I remember – good intentions swallowed by bad execution, a bit of a misfire and entirely forgettable. It’s very sentimental and indulgent; I’m not going to use the word ‘emo’ because I don’t agree with it, but think of what it evokes for you in terms of mental audio and this song probably comes pretty close. On the other hand, “Take Me Or Leave” is occasionally appealing. It’s quite soft and muted, the bass leading the way in lieu of the more charged guitars, and there are some sweet lilting synth effects floating about in the background. It adds a touch of humanity amidst all the yelling and anger (see below), even if it is pretty terrible and everything goes to hell with the appearance of some extremely random rapping.

Finally, the “Heavyette” section refers to the actually-rather-good tracks. The album’s first three songs are particularly notable in this regard; the band start off exceptionally well and lose their way somewhere in the middle. “Howdy Neighbour” is suitably acerbic and energetic, all feistiness and gusto and disembodied backing vocals. It’s like a heavier pop song, laced with venom, and it uses a piano to add an uncharacteristic air of grace near the end. “Imagineer” (co-authored and produced by Billy Corgan, by the by) fades in on a lengthy synth note, then adds some heavy guitars and distorts them for a rousing verse. The vocals are just as snide as they were in the album opener, breathing all kinds of bitterness and resolution into the lyrics, and the pace remains electric right through. “They’re Coming For Me” is a touch more melodic and a little more melodramatic than the above two, but the sound is big and absorbing and quite alluring, in spite of itself.

The other tracks are a similar mix of hit and miss – “Across 5 Oceans” is poppier and has an amiable hint of softness in its piano, and “Blood Red Flags” has soaring choruses in abundance for a big anthemic showdown in a live context. The final track, “The Great Divide” is something of an oddity however. It claims to be 8 minutes long, is actually a 2 minute venture and then periodically broken silence before a hidden track. I’m not a fan of hidden tracks, I’ve decided. Just put another blasted song on the record if you have to.

So, in conclusion, World War III is a perfectly worthy offering. If you’re a long term fan, it ought to please, if not, it may tempt you to give these lads another shot. I’ll definitely be giving it another guilty spin. And getting my groove on.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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