Tremendous album. One of the best out in 2012.
Before I start this review, I should let you know this will be a slightly different perspective then what other reviews may say, considering the following fact. I am pretty much a Killers virgin. Once I might not have said that, but only when I was 11, probably overplaying When You were Young on Guitar Hero, but I haven’t really heard any of their albums fully, or too many of their songs.
So when a friend lent me their new album, Battle Born, and told me “Yo, review this”, I sat down and gave it a listen. Despite his various praise and upheaval for the album, I really had not expected to be as blown away by its bloody brilliance as I was. It’s superb.
The first track, Flesh and Bone, begins with a stereo, 8-Bit groove, which gradually dies out as Mr. Flowers almost Mercury-like vocals burst in, and the chiptunes dissolve into a piano. With bellowed lyrics telling about the “Raging Bull” and “Fires of Hell”, it’s impossible not to get hyped. The guitar and bass keep a great running line either side of the chorus where Flowers demands to know “WHAT ARE YOU MADE OFFF?!” Fantastic opening track.
After that is Runaways, the albums lead single. It begins with a gentle, folk-y guitar and piano part, before Flowers’ almost operatic vocals ease in. The chorus is dynamic as hell, and the second verse really has Flowers’ heart in it, as he recounts lost love. There is a strong guitar part throughout, and hints of electronica at the bridge. Excellent.
The Way It Was proves that epic can stay up. It gets a little more romantic then the previous track, but still manages to retain an aggressive musical tone. It’s got a good bass tone throughout, and is definitely a foot-tapper. A fade out ending is probably not the best way to end this particular track, though, as it feels somewhat inappropriate given the nature of the song, but that’s one mans opinion.
Here with Me is a step down, perhaps one of the weaker tracks on the album.It’s bold piano intro that the vocals run over is perhaps a little bland, and the naff “Don’t want your picture…on my cell phone” is a lyric that kind of wrecks the anthem-like sound that has been built up by this point. The piano gets a good role in the song though.
Following that is A Matter of Time, with a properly epic opening, in which piano keys bounce, and power chords rage, with a properly climatic feel. The vocal part is brilliant, complete with backing vocals “Wooah-ooah-ooah, Woah oh oh” sounding like something you might find on a Coldplay album. It sounds…slightly darker then the previous tracks, but it’s fab throughout, and a highlight on the album.
Deadlines and Commitments is an interesting one. The dolce piano line opening works nicely with Flowers demonstrating some proper high notes. By the chorus, the pitch has dropped, the instruments kick in, and you’ll find yourself hearing some brilliant vocals that, once you’ve heard it a few times, will be impossible to not sing along to. The backing vocals add a slightly eerie undertone in places, but it’s impossible not to enjoy “Deeeeeeaaaadlines and Comitmeeeeeents” as a whole.
Miss Atomic Bomb is another star track. Mellow for the most part with a high guitar accompaniment part, it becomes more intense as it goes one. The chorus is great, hard to resist joining in, and the role of the bass and electronic music in the second verse only makes it incredible. Special credit must go to Dave Keuning, the band’s guitarist, for the soulful guitar slides giving the chorus extra level. Brilliant.
The Rising Tide has a long, funky, electronic intro. Before Flowers kicks in with some 80s, almost swing-like vocals for the verse, with epic, powerful choral versus. It almost gets a little gospel in one moment (singing “Hallelujah…HAAALLELUUJAH!) The guitar solo is dynamic, but ends too quickly, and you’re left with the message burned into you head, that you “can’t escape the rising of the tide.” What do you reckon he means by this? Great track.
In a huge change of pace, we get Heart of a Girl, slow, romantic, warm guitar lines, and sweet, romantic vocals. The slow jazz drums and bass kick in, giving the song an extremely sad tone. It really gets to me, and the lyrics take an up tone by the end, giving you hope. In fact the more I listen to this song, the more I realize I love it.
The pace is picked up again for From Here on Out, a groovy number, with some Tom Petty and even a little Elton in it. It’s bouncy, and a quick enjoyable track to mark the approaching end of the album.
Be Still is hauntingly beautiful, mellow, and dreamy, almost hymn-like lullaby. When the piano comes in, and Flowers sings, “Is this real or just a dream”, you might find yourself taken to an emotional level a song on such a dynamic album hasn’t got you to before. A fabulous “Quiet-before-the-storm” piece.
So many artists like to end aggressive/ fast albums on a soft note. The Killers have decided to buck the trend and end the album with the wonderfully explosive, blazing, and powerful Battle Born. The mellow, slow-paced guitar solo intro, before The Killers quickly forget the word “quiet”, and burst out the aggressive, soaring strings and the instruments powerful playing. The chorus is almost a war chant, and the entire song has a very climatic, this-is-what-you’ve-been-waiting for feel, which you could’ve seen coming considering this song being the title track. It proves to us, one more time, that Mr. Flowers can hit absolutely incredible vocals. All this accumulates before it’s gentle, piano outro, with choral accompaniment, and your head is left spinning.
Battle Born is stupendous. The Killers have nailed an amazing sound, and it’s definitely the height of heartland-y rock. This album has really persuaded me to check out their older stuff and, if it’s anywhere near as good as ‘Battle Born’, I will not be disappointed.