Album review: William The Conqueror – Proud Disturber of the Peace

Proud Disturber of The Peace opens with a gently rising riff. The opening words “keep it up” act like an instruction that the band took to heart. The beat is unwavering and mesmerising. The lyrics of In My Dreams closely match the surf rock tone, all free swimming and rip tides.

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Tend To The Thorns is familiar from William The Conqueror live shows and their 2016 EP of the same name. Again, the music echoes the lyrics – both are “quick and steady as we go.” The hypnotic chord changes and close harmonies give a dream-like sound to match the words “that’s the  point/I only ever dreamed at all.” This is an album highlight, just as it was an EP highlight.

By the time Did You Wrong hits, there’s no doubt that we’re hearing a tight, close band. There’s yet another insistent riff to surround Ruarri Joseph’s rich voice. It’s catchy as hell; a welcome earworm. Pedestals is simultaneously wordy and relaxed with Joseph talking rhymes over beautiful instrumentation. Here, and throughout the album, Harry Harding’s drum work is key.

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Sunny Is The Style brings the tempo right down. The instruments are subtly downtuned to back the deep vocals, and the pensive lyrics are matched by a harmonica outro.

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The Many Faces of a Good Truth teeters on the edge of blues and rock. Like a pacing tiger, there’s a sense of something about to strike. The title track has a similar sense of being lulled into a false sense of security. So it proves, as the languorous soft blues inevitably rises to a grungy crescendo, surrounding  and manifesting the “proud disturber of the peace” sobriquet that Joseph so identifies with.

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That’s surely bassist Naomi Holmes providing the gorgeous harmonies that underpin Cold Ontario.  If there’s to be any criticism here, it’s that there could have been room for more of her vocals in the mix. The blend of Joseph and Holmes’ voices is always a highlight on stage.

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Mind Keeps Changing  is perhaps the most characteristic song of the album. It fuses the band’s blues, jazz, indie, grunge and Americana influences and it works perfectly.

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Manawatu is a live highlight, an album highlight and, quite frankly, one of the songs of the year. Seriously, the album could be just this song 10 times and it would be stunning. The song is  achingly beautiful. Five stars. Well, OK, maybe the other 9 tracks on the album are necessary. Still, the chance to listen to this while flying over frozen Canadian mountainscapes (and while watching the sun rise on the return) really was something special.

The album was recorded as single live takes. With a band like William The Conqueror, that’s a very good decision. They’re clearly energised by performing live and the tight relationship between them is evident in the finished product. The album flows well and sounds professional, but it’s certainly not too polished or overproduced which is the curse of many a great live band. The wait for this album was long but certainly worth it.

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Proud Disturber Of The Peace is out now on Loose. Head over to williamtheconqueror.net where you can buy the CD. Not only because it’s better than streaming (for obvious reasons) but also because there are a couple of black and white shots of mine in the sleeve notes. Let me know what you think! 

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