Today we’re going to be taking a fresh look at a Welsh band by the name of RECLUSE. You see, I’ve known front-man Britt several years now, and that’s where the intro to this review came from. He messaged me recently asking how things were, and that he’d like to get my thoughts on the band's newest album, seeing as I’d been part of their journey since their debut...he said that I felt at least a small part in their continued story, which to be honest was quite sweet.
I do indeed remember championing their debut album “Crooked Heart”, but when I went to back-read my thoughts on it here for references, I realised that it actually pre-dates this entire blog! My first GTGC blog post was in 2014, yet I was playing Recluse on my old radio show back in 2011/2012! In the words of Mike Bracken; “Christ I’m Old!”. With that said, let's roll back the years and dust off the cobwebs as we check out “Lay Your Darkness Down With Me”...
We open up with the track “Stomah”, and like any normal person, I found myself Googling the word to get some context as to what the track could mean conceptually, but the results drew more blanks than the infertile department of your local sperm bank. Naturally I ask Britt what the story was, and the reply? It’s a spelling mistake from Kurt Cobain’s journal, talking about his debilitating stomach cramps, that has nothing to do with the actual songs content itself. For fuck's sake Britt. I digress...the track itself is a fine slab of fuzzy guitar and bass that pushes and enhances his rough and ready vocals; combining the early 90’s grunge aesthetic with more stoner rock and sludge elements, and it’s a fine opener.
Follow up track “You Get Out Alone” retains this approach with the deeper, rumbling bass complimenting the higher vocal notes. This more powerful, prominent vocal performance gives the track a far more positive energy, almost channelling the likes of SOUNDGARDEN for example, really coming to life towards the tracks climax. Album highlight “Throat” then takes things back down a notch, returning to their more stoner rock influences and there are moments here that could easily befit a QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE setlist. It’s got a solid groove and the distortion and muffling on the guitars again adds ample character; not to be mistaken for lack of production quality or recording cost-cutting...this gives the track a raw, visceral sound that works wonderfully for their stylistic delivery. This wouldn’t sound anywhere near as good too crisp or overly produced.
“The Quiet Hours” by contrast slows things right down, to more of that sludge-heavy style for a truly moody, brooding piece of alternative rock, that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to “The Crow”, and is every as bit as enjoyable as the aforementioned, despite coming from opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of delivery. That’s just one half of the album mind you...as Recluse also indulge in several spots of prog inspired writing. “Werewolves” disappoints slightly as I was expecting some bestial savagery to rip through my speakers and maul me with an intense flurry of riffs and percussion, but it’s drawn-out instrumental intro somehow manages to bridge the likes of DEFTONES with the earliest of CKY days, before some very subdued vocals bring the expectations down even further.
The main issues here however, come from two tracks taking up nearly thirty minutes of the album's hour and three-minute run time...and how they drag. “Olympus” being the longest of the tracks here initially starts off interestingly enough, like it’s about to veer off into some bluesy country-rock, but soon descends into an extended piece of everything we’ve heard prior, and like its name suggests, is a mountain to listen to if you're lacking in the old attention department. Closing track “Le Rose Hotel” then isn’t AS long but is arguably the weakest track on the record. Another needlessly long instrumental intro makes you wonder if they were given a target of how long the albums run-time needed to be, as this is literally nothing but pointless filler at this point. We’re over eight minutes in actually and I’ve not heard a single word...remind me to never stay here, I don’t care what offers I’m presented with on Booking.com!
Ultimately, Recluse have proven again that when they put their mind to it, they provide some of the finest modern era grunge going, keeping those sounds of the early to mid-nineties very much alive. They’ve shown growth over their three-album career to date and continue to expand their sound, though while the lengthy prog-inspired cuts aren’t for this particular reviewer, there’s definitely an audience for it and it’s a solid recording nevertheless.