Album Review: Area 11 – Modern Synthesis

Every now and again an album comes along that blows you away and you just can’t stop listening to it. Bristol rockers Area 11‘s second record Modern Synthesis is just that, and it’s by far and away the best album we’ve heard so far this year.

The album kicks off with an ominous crash and electronic blasts that conjure up images of a Pendulum-esque epic. Some haunting gothic wailing follows, then we’re slowly teased in and spat back out with a blistering guitar solo, before the opener kicks into full rocking life with timely blasts of electronic noise. The end result is four and a half minutes of rocking brilliance, and all-in-all a superb way to open up an album and set the scene for the brilliance that is to follow.

This is followed by the effortlessly catchy The Contract, which kicks off with a jerky intro then eases you in with a bouncy riff before a typically catchy singalong rock verse and chorus – of which the latter is superb.

Third track Watchmaker is in a similar vein, opening up sounding more than distinctly like Muse’s Bliss, before descending into heavy guitar blasts that can’t help but get you nodding / banging your head along in enjoyment. Have a watch of the video below:

This is followed by another blast of rock infused with electronic blasts as Versus kicks into life. It’s heavier and more intense than the previous tracks, but at the same time there’s a melodic feel to the choruses, which see electronic riffs complementing Tom ‘Sparkles’ Clarke’s ‘sparkling’ vocals.

The next track Processor brings it down a level with a relaxed, easy-going intro, before launching head-first into a blitz of frenzied guitars and screaming intertwined with slow almost melancholy interludes. It’s a near 7 minute long epic that outros with a singalong conclusion.

At this point we all need to slow down and breathe, which is the perfect time for slightly more relaxed Red Queen, with its big, bold chorus and more laid back verses.

We are then treated to the infectious, and brilliantly named, Angel Lust, which opens up with a smooth guitar solo, and just oozes coolness. The track embodies everything that makes Area 11 so good to listen to, with their ability to flick between chilled, laid back pop/soft-rock and instantaneously burst into wild solos and full-on heavy riffs.

Things then take an acoustic twist with The Life Of A Ghost, which slowly builds into an almost ‘heavy ballad’ – if there is such a thing? – with deceptively heavy guitar riffs under Sparkles’ tender lyrics and the obligatory guitar solo to round the track off.

This leads straight into the rocky, upbeat, fast-moving romp that is After The Flags, before the typically epic penultimate track Nebula. This is a wild combination of strings, guitars and Sparkles’ trademark voice, and even a bass solo before closing out with a guitar solo.

The album is brought to an end with Panacea and the Prelogue. The track begins slowly with a delicate piano intro, then a typical Sparkles ballad-esque vocal section as the song begins to build. You’re expecting the track to burst into life, but Area 11 keep us waiting and waiting, before the guitars kick into life after 2 and a half minutes. This is followed by a long, drawn-out moment of pause and reflection, before flying into an unexpectedly lively outro.

Modern Synthesis treads the fine line between pop, electronica and full-on rock, but does so superbly. It’s a brilliant, wholly enjoyable album and we haven’t stopped listening to it this week, so we implore you to go and listen to it too – on this evidence, Area 11 are one of the hottest new UK bands out there.

Area 11 have three upcoming gigs next month, at Macmillan Fest in Nottingham on September 3rd, Butserfest in Petersfield on September 10th and Macmillan Fest in Bristol on 24th September. More information and tickets are available here,and we can only imagine how good they’ll be live.

First album All the Lights in the Sky is also pretty awesome and well worth a listen!