After months of excitement and intrigue surrounding the record, Snow Patrol have released their sixth studio album Fallen Empires. Acclaimed as a step away from their well-established roots to a sound that better showcases their supposed secret love of techno, first impressions live up to expectations. The opening track ‘I’ll Never Let Go’ kicks off with a grand synth introduction which drives its progression.
However, despite all it’s been built up to be, Snow Patrol actually offer an album that is definitely not indifferent to their earlier releases; each song feels totally at home in their successful back-catalogue. In fact, Fallen Empires leads the bands large fanbase to ask Gary Lightbody and co. why they hadn’t thought of making modern instruments more prominent earlier.
This becomes incredibly noticable after the third track. As the band begin to come into form, lead guitarist Nathan Connolly in particular dazzles, launching himself into long-winded yet bouncy riffs, ideal for a ‘stadium band’ now firmly established in the field of the greats. Needless to say Lightbody also performs spectacularly, showcasing his unique ability to create deeply personal lyrics. Putting second single ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’ to the side, ‘Lifening’ represents a warming vision of the lead singer’s wishes to eventually settle down.
What makes the record so enjoyable is the prominence of the band’s newest contributors: Jacknife Lee and Lissie. As a producer and mixer, Lee has notched up an impressive record of credits including, amongst others, U2 and R.E.M., and on the album he has been given a huge amount of control over its direction. However, Jacknife is an incredibly intelligent man who has realised that the ‘techno’ sounds associated with Lightbody’s early plans would be potentially fatal to the potential success of the album. Instead he works magnificently within the boundaries set on tracks such as ‘Berlin’ and ‘Symphony’. These are incredibly upbeat, and his subtle synths pulse throughout to make them even more so.
American folk singer Lissie is by far the hidden gem on the album. Continuing in a long tradition of duet ballads by female artists with the band, she brings the relaxed vibes of her debut album Catching a Tiger to the table. Her rough, serenading voice contributes a great deal to the flow of the album and is a welcome alternative to the more widely known female singers that have appeared on previous albums.
If there were criticisms to be noted about the album, they would have to be that it has now become all too easy to draw tangents between Snow Patrol’s present and past. Both ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’ and ‘New York’ contend for the title of most likely to become the new ‘Chasing Cars’, while the lack of a ‘You’re All I Have’ moment detracts from the variation in the album. Furthermore, in a style replicating that of Lightbody’s side project Tired Pony, Fallen Empires went under considerably less production than expected, with recordings being limited to only a couple of takes. Thus, although more natural, Snow Patrol lack the high quality presentation apparent on A Hundred Million Suns. However, considering how large the band’s touring extras have become, this may not turn out to be a bad idea. Only time will tell if Lightbody and co.’s gamble has paid off and cemented their place as one of the defining bands of the 21st century.
Good: The subtle and inspired inclusion of Jacknife Lee and Lissie into the album without compromising Snow Patrol’s core sound.
Bad: The over-familiarity of the album and absence of an attention-grabbing track.