Ward XVI (that’s “Ward Sixteen”, not “Ward Thirteen” or “Ward Ex Vee Eye”) are back, three years after releasing their debut The Art of Manipulation. With an appearance on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock somewhere in the middle of that time, they’ve never really stayed still and are a constant force on social media, plugging a gig or a video or a baby or something. Well now, it’s time to plug Metamorphosis.
This is a concept album, and events within follow on from those in the previous release. There are, apparently, three story threads which intertwine and the final tracks on each album can be played one after the other… The whole documents the transition of Psychoberrie from little girl to insanity, and isn’t a simple collection of loosely-related songs. There’s plenty of spoken word narrative linking the songs so you can stay on board with the story, reminiscent of the likes of WASP’s classic Crimson Idol.
The music itself isn’t perhaps what you would at first expect. Given the band’s visuals, you may expect something razor-edged and vicious. However, what we have here is something far deeper, more haunting and – frankly – fucking brilliant. The core band members (Psychoberrie, Doctor von Stottenstein and Wolfy Huntsman) have put together something really special which pulls from various depths of the rock/metal toybox but never overshadows the overall story.
Here and there the trademark circus rhythms kick in, familiar to fans of the first release and very much part of Ward XVI’s signature sound. Each track has its own personality, and these highlight the three threads mentioned earlier. For instance, recent single “Mr Babadook” is quite creepy, while “Daisy Chains”‘ guitar solo is a big phat blues rock one. In all cases, Psychoberries vocals are nice and clear over the top – important when you’re trying to tell a story!
That’s not to say that the songs don’t rock. “Broken Toys” is one of my favourites after a couple of listens, and it has one of those bouncy sections you can pretty much dance a jig to. And having been witness to the chaos at that Bloodstock set, this is exactly what the fans want. Bloody hell, they won’t be disappointed.
Another highlight was looking at the personnel involved in the recording. It’s a group effort from around the “scene” with so many names we know. Drums have been provided by Manchester stalwart John Badger, a legend in his own floor tom. Martin Crawley’s keys and accordion define the sound across many of the songs and the album just wouldn’t be the same without them. The lovely Anabelle Iratni of Devilment lends her vocal pipes to operatic outbreaks, and the ginger lungs of Footprints in the Custard’s Russ tear holes in the “Shadows” as the album comes to an end.
You can probably tell that I’m utterly sold on this release. I love it, absolutely love it. It blows holes in what I was expecting. I avoided listening to any of the tracks until I had a chance to hear the whole thing in one sitting and I’m really glad I did so. Ward XVI should be hugely proud of this release and it deserves to absolutely kick them into the spotlight. Bravo!
Metamorphosis is out on September 25th