LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Into The Raging Sea' - Broadside
Turmoil is sadly nothing new in the lives of Virginia quartet Broadside. From vocalist Oliver Baxxter’s tumultuous childhood upheavals, to the recent behind-the-scenes unrest within the band itself, a new album gave Broadside a platform to harness that emotion, and craft it into something powerful. And that album became ‘Into The Raging Sea’. Each track on the record sounds as though it is emerging from the darkness, bursting into life and illustrating what a guiding light music has been in the lives of each of the band’s members, as these tracks act as a form of catharsis and healing, pulling them – and in turn, their fans – through life’s unruly voyages.
The record’s opening track, which contributes itself towards the album’s title, proves at once that this album is set to be darker and more introspective than their practically bubbly sugar-rush of a previous release. ‘The Raging Sea’ is cradled by a lull of melancholy guitars, accompanied by lyrics that are beautifully poetic as always. It is a plea to the listener to push through the darkness and find the shining heart of these tracks when they are veiled behind a darker mystery and not dazzlingly bright; yet one cannot help but feel that, when it comes to Broadside, that saccharine brightness was hiding this level of dusky, candid beauty behind it all along. The vocals take the lead here, straining almost to screams even within the opening minutes – this record is Broadside in all their raw, unsullied glory.
Yet, at least on the surface, this album is not as musically understated and subdued as one might expect – far from it, in fact! The orchestral, glittering synth notes of ‘Foolish Believer’ break into a more characteristic Broadside guitar line, racing with an infectious bounce, full of fist-pumping energy! It can be said that the tone of the vocals hint at a darker undertones – the same dichotomy of energetic melodies and coarse lyrics that adorned their 2015 album ‘Old Bones’. Big, scything guitars again come racing back through the ambient fade-out into ‘Overdramatic’. Lyrics dripping with cutting cynicism reveal that the soft-touch pop gloves are well and truly off now! While the chorus could do with being thrust along by adding a bit more grit to the bassline, the tease of an ethereal bridge that almost fades into nothingness, before bouncing right back with a mosh-pit inducing final chorus is enough compensation for it! The award for being the brightest and boldest anthem of them all, however, has to be awarded to ‘Breathe You In’. Stereo-effect guitars come punching into life, with all the heady euphoria of a blistering summer’s day, and of running with your friends on the last day of school, and of your first kiss all rolled into one! This is the perfect soundtrack for the summer we all wish we could be having this year, as the layered vocals in the final chorus give this track a rousing sense of finality.
Despite this album being borne from a sense of emotional turmoil, both past and present, there is a shimmering beacon at the heart of this record: the power of love. A personal highlight of the entire record is the utterly stunning ‘Heavenly’. It grows and blossoms out of the dark, and, as the title suggests, it is as balmy and delectable as you could ever hope for. It would be doing this track a disservice to attempt to dissect it’s various musical elements for discussion: this is a song that should be taken in it’s gorgeous entirety as an ode to dewy-eyed lovers and battle-scarred partners in crime alike. Poppier without being overly sweet, ‘Nights Alone’ opens with keys that pop like bubbles floating in the background. As love songs that are built on a pop structure go, this is a masterclass in writing a honeyed, feel-good anthem. Exultant in it’s message is ‘Dancing On The Ceiling (With You)’, whose crowning glory is its tear-jerking lyrics: ‘now I’m wrapped up in your arms, feels like I’m enough’ is just one of its infinitely quotable musings. Pain may be Broadside’s initial muse on this record, but the comfort found and lessons learned through love are just as equal an inspiration.
Feeling as though it has been painted with a lighter touch than it’s predecessors is ‘Clarity’. Sliding and soft, and backed by ethereal harmonising, the simplicity in the opening melody allows Ollie’s vocals to shine, keeping you hanging off of every word. Yet this track never builds to those same heady, euphoric heights – it feels like it floats in no-man’s land between the joyful odes to love and desperate pleas that vie for resonance across the entire record. Similar in tone is ‘Seasons’. The overriding message of tenacity through troubled times is a beautifully crafted one, but the track seems to build and then retain its emotional pitch, which makes it feels almost like an interlude as opposed to a memorable chunk of this record in its own right. At times, however, balancing on an emotional tightrope can yield impressive results – for example, with ‘The Setting Sun’. As kick drum punches it’s way forwards, the song swings wildly between choruses packed with soaring vocals akin to those that characterised Broadside’s 2017 record ‘Paradise’, to then the distorted vocals of the second pre-chorus which lick with a darker, more venomous bite. This track seems to be grappling with the hidden layers of melancholy that lurk beneath much of the record- and doing it very well indeed.
However, just when you thought you were safe, bookending ‘Into The Raging Sea’ are the album’s two bleakest, most visceral tracks - but it is so infinitely worth reaching this finale. Grandiose dripping piano notes flicker like candles in the wind on ‘Burning At Both Ends’, which cruelly strips away the promise of joy and healing with the notion that the darkness will always be there, lurking in the depths. The truly devastating line ‘sometimes the world will give you love as a temporary fix’ is so utterly heart-breaking, it is truly magnificent. Through the delicate balance of the pared-down instrumentation and Ollie’s crystal clear vocals, the track holds you in suspense so powerfully, that by the end you have to force yourself to catch your breath again.
'Into The Raging Sea' is out now - stream the album here.
Check out the video for the stunning single, 'Heavenly', here:
Broadside will be supporting Set It Off on their recently rescheduled UK/EU tour dates in Spring 2021 - dates can be found below and tickets are available here.