EP Review: Ward XVI – Unplugged and Sedated

2020 has been one of those years where many of us have just had to make the most of a bad situation. Ward XVI, insane though they may be, are no different. They had recorded and started publicity for the superb Metamorphosis, which we reviewed a short while ago, but the release hit right in the middle of the whole lockdown mess and live shows to promote it just couldn’t be pulled off. Which is a particularly large shame as the lineups for said shows were great!

So what to do? A few videos, some streaming… yeah, all the other bands are doing that but Ward XVI aren’t other bands. They wanted to push themselves so found something new and stripped five of their songs down to the core and acousticised them. I may have made that word up, but I like it and it works here.

Four of the tracks are from Metamorphosis and the final number is [censored on pain of incarceration], a bonus number for you all.

What sells this release for me is the fact that the tracks haven’t just been chucked from electric guitar to acoustic, they’ve been properly adapted. Straight from the off, “The Cradle Song” opens with that soft guitar… but for the original song these notes were keyboards mimicking a child’s plinky-plunky mobile leading into a grandiose circus soundtrack. This has been shortened, simplified and torn back to its glistening skeleton. It’s the same song, but almost from a different perspective. The removal of the background effects and big-scale production really change the feel of the piece.

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“Burn the Witch” was already one of the more laid back songs on album two, but it’s more so now and Psychoberrie’s vocal style has shifted to emphasise this. It suddenly hit home how similar her style is to Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, the slightly psychedelic overtones of “Witch” not lost, in fact if anything emboldened, on this version.

“Daisy Chains” cheats a little with a hint of the electric. It’s clean guitar, though, and turns the song into an old-time blues number. “Shadows” is probably the closest to its original incarnation and leads into the barebones [censored] which – like “Cradle Song” come across very differently without the [censored].

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This isn’t just a “collectors only” EP, it’s one well worth picking up for any fan of the band. It very much adds to the material already out there and I’m glad they didn’t try to rush out any of the songs they have kicking about ready for “proper” album number three. A great idea, well implemented.

Unplugged and Sedated is out on December 24th

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