Sixstarhotel - 'A Kind of Crusade'
Francis Jones checks in and checks out the band's debut LP
The glacial strings of ‘Remember Winter’ usher us into the domain of Sixstarhotel, and set the tone for a record instilled with a doleful, underplayed grace.
‘A Kind Of Crusade’, the band’s first full-length, take us on an emotional odyssey, the subject matter familiar to any sentient human being, handled with a deftness and sensitive surety that the majority of today’s celebrated guitar bands, loud, brash and unfeeling, would struggle to attain.
The album contains a number of Sixstar staples; indispensable back catalogue cuts which have been reworked and more than merit inclusion amongst the new material.
Garlanded with violin, viola, cello and trumpet, the band’s sound has never been more expansive, the additional instrumentation lending the record a wondrous opulence, elevating the material that notch higher.
The dedication of the band is incontestable. They’ve enrolled Rocky O’Reilly to provide production know-how and brought the album to Abbey Road for mastering.
The album comes beautifully packaged, boasting exquisite artwork.
Nonetheless, such touches are ephemeral if they are in service to insubstantial music.
Thankfully this is not the case. ‘Colour The Mess’ is a stirring statement of purpose, a belligerent broadside to the sullen and cynical, a freeing up from negativity, with vulnerable bravado winning out.
The guitars are insistent, scratching at our ears, demanding attention whilst the rhythms are simply fearsome.
The vocal of David Clements is an entrancing mix of the aggressive and the pleading, the perfect vessel for Sixstar’s alternately effervescent and sorrowful tales.
The pleasingly staccato ‘Fairytale and Failures’ is one of the most interesting tracks on the album, it flits from point to point, the various strands of guitar, bass and percussion overlaid, the rat-a-tat effect segueing into a bruising chorus.
There is an initial sense of desolation to ‘The Faults In Future’. Then come the guitars, set-square angular, their razor-sharp points piercing the gloomy canvas, letting in the light and with it hope.
This constant emotional pull and the music’s schizophrenic rhythms make for an intense listening experience.
The churlish might suggest that this is the record’s weakness; there is not enough light and shade over the course of its 14 tracks.
Unquestionably powerful, the emotional hue is constant throughout. The melancholic defiance is the sort that we can wrap around us and luxuriate in, but sometimes we want to cast aside such garments, to feel the sun on our face.
The wonderfully woozy ‘Blame Strangers’, with its burbling trumpet introduction, proves that Sixstarhotel are capable of mixing it up and broadening their palette of expression.
Alternately shadowy and playful, ‘Crystal Fists’, is another highlight. Then we have the reworked ‘This Simple Man’. There is a crippling nostalgia, a yearning for better days and a better life that is utterly magical.
For a debut release, ‘A Kind Of Crusade’ is an ambitious record, a sonic, citadel-storming triumph. Despite occasionally overreaching, Sixstarhotel emerge victorious.