Twin Atlantic - Vivarium(mini-album)

Dan Round 09/09/2009

Rating: 3.5/5

Arriving exactly 20 months on from primitive debut E.P. “A Guidance From Colour”, Glaswegian collective Twin Atlantic release their first mini-album, “Vivarium”. A more polished and fully realised commodity than the E.P., this mini-album showcases Twin Atlantic's fast tempo, impassioned, and very, very Scottish rock sound at it's best yet. Having supported the rock-royalty of emotive heavy rock, Smashing Pumpkins, Twin Atlantic now seem poised to become the British kings of their own brand of guitar music.

With Sam McTrusty's aggressive and heavily accented vocal, and sweeping, pounding riffs, Twin Atlantic demand attention from the onset of “Vivarium”. Beginning with the anthemic “Light Speed”, the mini-album starts in blistering fashion. Dominant drumming courtesy of Craig Kneale and guitar feedback serves as the intro, before McTrusty's instantly recognisable vocal roars into the mix over the top of Ross McNae's bass. Though at the beginning of the record McTrusty's vocal may seem somewhat of an acquired taste - to anyone outside of Glasgow, presumably - by the end you will become accustomed to it (… promise!). With a rousing chorus and a catchy melody, “Light Speed” is the perfect conceivable start to the album, setting the tone and firmly stamping the Twin Atlantic sound into the listener's consciousness. As soon as “Light Speed” grinds to a halt, track two “Old Grey Face” bellows into action, giving the listener no time to catch a breath. A cynical blast backed with spiky guitars and a wonderfully surprising key change in the dying seconds, it is one of the most memorable songs on the record.

Tracks 3 and 4 prove to be Twin Atlantic at their most raucous, and also at their best. Both “You're Turning Into John Wayne”, the group's latest single, and “Caribbean War Syndrome” feature McTrusty's most impressive and thoughtful lyrics too. “You're Turning Into John Wayne” grills the issue of Americanisation of popular culture, informed by the band's very own experience of being signed to an American record label, recording in Texas, and working with American producers earlier this year. Sung in his raspy Scottish vocal, it is a sincere and heartfelt, rifling assault on the subject matter; McTrusty's love-hate relationship with the land of the free being exposed with the refrain “why do we imitate all we love to hate?” The most American of all American icons, John Wayne, simply gets the brunt of the frontman's anger. On “Caribbean War Syndrome”, by quite some measure the lengthiest song on “Vivarium”, McTrusty sings of trouble in paradise, a hypothetical war in the exotic setting of the Caribbean Islands. With catchy guitars - scratching and jabbing - the song changes in pace and direction more than once in an exhilarating manner. In the midst of the mayhem, guitarist Barry McKenna is really able to let loose with wild riffs and solos. Despite clocking in at over six minutes, Twin Atlantic really do manage to pull it off.

After such an exuberant opening half, “Vivarium” does ultimately cool-off with the remaining four songs, perhaps an indicator that the band, though clearly impressive, are not quite ready for a full length album as of yet. Former singles “What is Light? Where is Laughter?” and “Audience and Audio” - the latter being the only song on the record to be resurrected from the “A Guidance From Colour” E.P. - are both rerecorded and improved from previous incarnations, but nevertheless sound like second rate Biffy Clyro songs. The subtle, calming cello in “What is Light? Where is Laughter?” however does further prove Twin Atlantic have great depth and scope to their music, another indication of the band's creative potential. Of the remaining tracks, “Human After All” with its sprawling guitar line and stop-start jabs is one of the heaviest and most heated songs on the album, though more forgettable and not as instantly catchy as its predecessors, while album closer “Better Weather” showcases Twin Atlantic at their quietest and most sensitive. With chiming guitars and soaring vocals, it is a fitting end to “Vivarium” despite an uncharacteristically slow pace.

Although this band is not yet, then, the complete package, this mini-album hints at their great potential. With “Vivarium”, Twin Atlantic have succeeded in making a mini-album of colourful and sincere power pop, packed with brilliant, heavy hooks and stirring songs. If the band now manages to successfully use this collection of belting songs as a platform to greater heights, it can't be long before Twin Atlantic are rightfully heralded as the new kings of Scottish rock music. Dedicated, confident, and possessing a strong belief in themselves and the music they make, Twin Atlantic have a togetherness and integrity which many new guitar bands seem to lack in. Well worth investing some time in, this is a solid (largely great) debut from a promising band.

Release date: 14/09/2009