Lostprophets - The Betrayed
In 2007, Lostprophets were in a tricky situation, one not dissimilar to one faced by Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro: Liberation Transmission had become their biggest commercial success and yet also the most maligned by their hardcore fans for its, at times, power-punk sensibilities. This was followed by the well-known production problems they faced with creating the follow-up, at one time having a whole album recorded and then scrapped for being too slick, returning home to produce it themselves. It could end up being one of their best ever decisions.
A pounding drumbeat, guitar feedback and heavy bass chords signal the arrival of The Betrayed and by the time Ian Watkins’ recognisable vocals kick in with the heavy underlying of menace on ‘If It Wasn’t For Hate, We’d Be Dead By Now’, you’re in no doubt that something has changed. Gone are the optimistic rockers from Pontypridd that we last saw on Liberation Transmission and in their place is a dark, apocalyptic force intent on bringing the UK rock and metal scene to its knees.
‘Dstryr/Dstryr’ follows immediately after without time for a breath and it’s a brutal throwback to the days of Thefakesoundofprogress, with crunching guitar riffs and a relentless vocal barrage from Watkins. It comes across as a defiant love letter to those troubled production times as he snarls “every time you think you stopped us / We’ll wind up stronger from the dust”. Lead single ‘It’s Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here’ keeps up the high octane start, with follow up single ‘Where We Belong’ welcomingly slowing down the pace after, just as you think this album is going to make you burn 2000 calories just by listening to it. ‘It’s Not The End Of The World…’ is one of the finest things that the band have produced, but still not quite up there with 'Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja', and deserves to be played loud just to feel its full, epic impact as the main guitar riff hammers itself into your ears. Whilst ‘Where We Belong’ is an unashamedly crowd-baiting power ballad but it manages to stay the right side of the line between soaring and schmaltzy … just.
If any further evidence was needed that Lostprophets have gone right back to their roots musically - as well as physically - for this album, it can be found on ‘Next Stop Atro City’. Powered by an insanely fast drum beat, the track is as ferocious as anything the band have created and will go a long way to satisfying their hardcore faithful who might have thought they didn’t have their metal roots anymore after Liberation Transmission. It’s a musical equivalent of a Paul Greengrass action sequence: frenetic, thrilling and uncompromising from start to finish.
But just when you think Lostprophets are going to play it safe and keep it as metal as the periodic table, the band do something completely out of left field. ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Felon’ brings to the table a ska-tinged feel complete with short, sharp guitar chords and the album is all the better for it. It temporarily lifts the dark tones that the album is positively drenched in throughout and shows that the band aren’t content with staying still. This is further enforced by a couple of the following tracks, ‘A Better Nothing’ and ‘Dirty Little Heart’, which come across as an amalgamation of their previous two albums with the catchy riffs of Start Something and the sing along refrains of Liberation Transmission. The band are reflecting, but they’re moving on and improving as they do so.
‘Streets Of Nowhere’ is sandwiched between these two tracks and is easily the catchiest song Lostprophets have ever created; the la, la, la’s of the refrains before the choruses are so infectious that they should come with their own vaccination. It’s music making 101, but when it’s done as effectively as this, you can’t help but nod your head along and smile ridiculously.
You can’t keep the dark side down though and it returns in a big way for the final two tracks of the album. ‘Darkest Blue’ seems destined to be a single as it’s certainly one of the more immediate tracks on the album with its catchy chorus and the classic trick of having a piano-led bridge into a big finish. It’s the weakest track on the album but when the standard is so high, that’s not a criticism; it’s nowhere near a filler track, it’s just merely good instead of brilliant. ‘The Light That Burns Twice As Bright…’ is every bit the epic closer that an album like this deserves. Starting off slow and ominously with just Watkins’ vocals and a muted instrumental before it crashes into life midway through as he mercilessly repeats “this is how it feels” with increasing intensity with the band more than matching the brooding ferocity of the vocals.
Out of the ashes of troubled production and discarded albums, a musical phoenix has risen; The Betrayed is Lostprophets' most accomplished and finest effort to date. It may only be early in the year but the standards have already been set for all other rock albums to follow and try to best in 2010. Welcome back boys, it’s been far too long.