Review: Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires
With Snow Patrol, fans have always seemed to want more of the same. Whether it's the glorious 'Run', or the emotional 'Chasing Cars', the band have always been able to deliver the next catchy melody. However, before its release, Snow Patrol front man Gary Lightbody stated that this album will be different, both in sound and quality, delivering their best album yet.
Is he right? It's difficult to tell on first listen but, if you let the background electronic vibe the album emits or the highly reflective lyrics sink in, it's difficult to argue this isn't their most consistent album.
It begins beautifully - with the best opening track on any of their albums: 'I'll Never Let You Go.' Here, Snow Patrol's intent is seen early on - with the song's funky, electronic beat and Lightbody's slightly distorted cry of "I'll never let go/ I'll never let go you said out loud." While the lyrics are great, the song really demonstrates the strength of the album: the sound.
Such songs as 'Called Out in the Dark' and 'The Weight of Love' show a slightly new side to Snow Patrol - an ability to change the tone of their songs, while still delivering strong lyrics. It's a side to them the listener has never seen before, and is a vast improvement on the linear songs of their past, such as 'Hands Open' and 'Gleaming Auction.'
In some ways, I've always felt the band have been too scared to really come out of their shell - this especially being the case with the album "Hands Open," as, while I enjoyed some of the songs, a lot of them sounded similar, making the album blur into one massive breakup song.
This is where "Fallen Empires" differs, as the variation continues, with 'This Isn't Everything You Are', arguably the album highlight, as well as 'The Garden Rules' and the fascinating 'Fallen Empires.' They not only keep the consistency up, but show different sides to the band. 'This Isn't Everything You Are' gets back to the roots of the band, showcasing a love song, but with a twist. Unlike some of their previous work, this creates a reflective, powerful song, with an uplifting chorus, and a beautiful background, creating a song that almost has a life of its own. 'The Garden Rules' goes back to Lightbody's childhood, creating a sweet, innocent song about young love, with a gorgeous chorus and heartfelt lyrics. 'Fallen Empires' follows this; not only being one of the most interesting songs they've ever created, but also creating a deep menace, with the gradual build up, towards a soaring climax. It's easy to see why this is the title track: it epitomises the direction the band want to go in, while also showing the slight change in tone.
On the whole, the first half of the album is nothing short of fantastic, not only delivering consistently interesting songs, but keeping the listener intrigued as to what comes next and, while the album doesn't keep up with the standard, the fact alone that the album has such a wonderful start can only be seen as a good thing.
'Berlin' is an interesting little diversion; an instrumental that leads to 'Lifening', a heartfelt song about Lightbody's desires, and his upbringing. It's a great song - but here lies the only real issue with the album. In this song, and the songs succeeding it such as 'New York' and 'Those Distant Bells', the tonal shift almost puts you off. While these songs still have strengths, and show some of the advantages the album has over past efforts, the momentum from the previous songs is almost completely lost.
There's no doubt these songs are enjoyable: 'New York' shows the strength and versatility of Lightbody's lyrics, while 'Those Distant Bells' includes a lovely electronic flourish towards the end. However, it has to be said that these songs are the weakest part of the album. It just feels they've stuck them together, not bearing in mind the extent of the tonal shift.
The second part of the album does end on a high, luckily. The final two songs really bring the album to a gratifying close, both sonically and emotionally.
'The Symphony' is a joyous celebration of music; the uplifting core of the song, with the constant change of direction, towards a clash of sound that is fantastical as much as it is creative shows that Snow Patrol have developed as a band. It's the band creating something new, and succeeding brilliantly. I mean, could you really see this song in the gloomy second half of "Hands Open"?
'The President' also needs to be praised, for creating a deeply emotional end, in a way that Patrol have never done before. Patrol have always managed to create deep lyrics (this song being a prime example of that), but the heartbreaking finality of the sound, as well as the noises of the street heard in the final minute give the song a persona. Lines such as 'And it's broke before you know it/before you knew what it was for' are lyrics Lightbody's voice was made for, and he delivers them with an edge that breathes life into them. These final two songs really are, unquestionably, two of the highlights.
Overall, "Fallen Empires" is a fantastic album, and a great achievement. From a band that is known to tread a line they helped create, Snow Patrol has managed to find a middle ground: being accessible to fans of old, while beginning to forge a new path forward. Sure, they may still be songs that remind you of previous albums, but most of the album has added depth to it because of the introduction of the new sound. Before, sound was merely used as a background to the lyrics. Now, however, it's one of the main components of the album.
If "A Hundred Million Suns" was the bridge between the old sound and new sound, then "Fallen Empires" is the vehicle that was made to cross it.