28 Nov 2020

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Villainy - Album Review: Raised in the Dark

21 Jul 2019 // A review by Callum Wagstaff

Villainy have been winning awards for their albums since their debut, so you don't need my review to convince you that you're gonna have a good time with Raised In The Dark. Their riffs are as saucy as ever and their crafting has reached a new level: they picked the 10 tracks on this album from a staggering pool of 107. Where there has been a stimulating new mutation in the Villainy organism is the concept. There is an overarching theme that weaves in and out of the songs.

The band worked with long-time collaborator Tom Larkin over the course of a handful of sessions at his Melbourne based recording studio. Tom Larkin is the drummer for Kiwi rock royalty Shihad and I can't resist comparing the album to Shihad's Love Is The New Hate era in a game of pick the Shihad album. Raised In The Dark combines the approach of recording four musicians vibing live in a room together (as was the case in their sophomore album Dead Sight) with the more clinical tracking method used in Mode.Set.Clear, their debut effort. The combination lets them keep the immediacy of a raw band performance while providing the flexibility to add more complexity into the recordings.

Larkin's outside influence allowed the band to more objectively distil their ideas into concentrated rock earworm masterpieces like the pessimistically confrontational Dreams, which captured my attention right away. I couldn't resist the slacker-rage refrain "No-one gives a fuck about your dreams." As a side note, hearing the static-spike censor blip on the radio edit had more impact on me than hearing the word "fuck", which I casually sprinkle into all my business meetings and dinner table talk.

The title track and album opener was a sleeper hit for me. It didn't take a large space in my mind until I'd heard Dreams a few times, but now any time I visit a shower, toilet or elderly relative my brain plays the opening line: "can't afford a house and you can't afford a wedding ring." The songs are such a force that I sometimes found myself wanting for a grittier production style to really accommodate the unshaven swagger of the music. That grunt is something that Villainy have cut themselves a reputation for in their live shows and I look forward to seeing a deeper integration of that appeal in their future albums.

I hadn't heard Uncomfortable before listening to the album and it grabbed me the most out of all the new-to-my-ears songs. The chorus melody is a great combo of catchy, moody and compositionally interesting. Where Dreams resonated with my sense of frustration and Raised In The Dark gave me a society to blame for it, I felt Uncomfortable offered me a way to be philosophical about any discontent it reminded me of. Vocalist Neill Fraser wrote it while the rest of the band was tracking for the record and exiled him to their apartment to finish songs. It speaks to my tastes that he wrote this song on isolation, whiskey, sleeping pills and self-inflicted misery spewed out on to paper in an hour. I always appreciate hearing that kind of essential, cathartic songwriting. Ironically enough it made me feel comforted to remember that "you've got to be uncomfortable."

IFXS is the snake in the grass and I feel the need to praise it specifically after preaching the merits of the album motif. This song throws it away for a second and reminds you that Villainy are, first and foremost, just here to rock your bowels loose. It stands for I fucked a Snake and it means very little but it's an absolute banger and sure to go off live like a letterbox firework at a bachelor party.

Whether it's the climate change terror I get from Tiny Little Island or the inescapable futility I feel from Dreams, Raised In The Dark is a reaction to the hopeless sense of existential dread felt by people of a post-modern generation. In true rock and roll fashion, Villainy offer me a vehicle to gleefully scream that everything is fucking bullshit as I spill beer on the back of the shirtless person in front of me.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Villainy

vill·uh·nee /?vil?nç/
Noun: 1. The actions or conduct of a villain; outrageous wickedness.
2. Maniacal rock band from Auckland, New Zealand.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Villainy


Year: 2020
Type: EP
Raised In The Dark
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Dead Sight
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Mode. Set. Clear.
Year: 2012
Type: Album

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