May 2011

The New Jacobin Club

This Treason

Somnambulist Sound System/Indie Pool


Canadian (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan based) outfit The New Jacobin Club have been on the scene for the better part of fifteen years, and in that time have managed to produce three full-length albums (2001’s ‘The New Jacobin Club’, 2003’s ‘Retake The Throne’ and 2006’s ‘Wicked City’), and a host of other releases pressed exclusively on vinyl and cassette (Mostly demos, singles and live albums).


But despite their prolific output, the band haven’t really managed to make a huge dent with their gothic/metal on a musical level, primarily because the visual aspect of their show (Which has been described as the evil version of ‘Cirque De Soleil’) is an equally important aspect of their overall presentation. That was prior to the release of their latest effort ‘This Treason’, which is easily their most accomplished effort to date.


Conceptually based on tragedies and atrocities surrounding the 14th century warlord Sir Hugh Despenser and King Edward II, ‘This Treason’ is an ambitious gothic rock opera that could well have turned into a complete disaster in the wrong hands. And while it’s no classic masterpiece, The New Jacobin Club has managed to make an album that’s as entertaining as it is varied.


The opening title track ‘This Treason’ is a fair indication of what you can expect from the group, and that’s part orchestral, part gothic rock and a fair chunk of metal thrown in with the heavy guitar and bass work. Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist The Horde gives the band a slight latter era-Misfits sound on the vocal front, while the heavy riffing from The Fury, The Swarm’s bass work and Rat King’s drums give off a slight Slipknot influence, if only with the strong rhythmic groove they all contribute to.


‘Private Hell’ is a definite favourite with its strong pop melodies and punk rock vibe wrapped around some impressive lead work, while the semi-acoustic/keyboard driven ‘Breath Like Wine’ is another worthy effort.


Despite their best attempts at evoking a heavier and creepier feel, the keyboards in ‘Countess Scorned’ don’t quite manage to convince the listener enough to really work, while the rocking dirty blues effort ‘Like Dogs’ sounds like its built on a solid foundation, but don’t really go anywhere during its full five and a half minutes. 

  The faster speed and aggression within ‘The Fall’ is a definite lift around the halfway mark of the album, even if the theatrics around the latter half of the song feel a little tacked on for the sake of a cinematic feel overall, but the rocking instrumental ‘Kronos Devours His Children’ does manage to put the album back on track.

  The big centrepiece of the album has to be the thirteen minute mini-opera ‘All Mourning Long’. Much like some of the former tracks, ‘All Mourning Long’ does have its genuinely interesting moments (The acoustic work at the tail end is well done, as to are some of the heavier moments that punctuate here and there), but seems a little too drawn out in places to really justify running for such a length.

  The use of stringed keyboards add a real sense of drama to ‘The Bishop And The Executioner’, earning the song a place amongst the short list of favourites from the album, while the closing number ‘Penance At The End Of Days’ (Excluding the hidden ‘Breath Like Wine (Clubmix ‘84)’) provides a fitting heavy and catchy conclusion to the album.


On a theatrical level, few can match The New Jacobin Club with their live presentation. But on a musical level, the band has always lagged behind many with music running a distant second to presenting a visual feast for the eyes. But with ‘This Treason’, the band has certainly written some solid tunes, all of which can be enjoyed on their own.


Of course, there’s still some niggling issues in terms of production, mixing and the ratio of fillers compared to album worthy tracks, but when you weigh up the past and the present, it’s clear that The New Jacobin Club have come up with a worthwhile release this time around with ‘This Treason’.


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© Justin Donnelly