Unknown Refuge: Album Review

Album – From The Darkness

A little sneak preview grassroots one today as I get to review an album that isn’t out until next week! Unknown Refuge are a Bolton based hard rock/metal band. The young band, formed back in 2015, the band have been writing music almost the entire time, with their debut single To The Light being released last summer. The band have gained a steady, devoted fanbase over the years, playing such great festivals such as Stonedead and Band on the Wall. Their debut album, From the Darkness, is set for release on the 26th of this month, with a link to the pre-orders being down at the bottom. I have already heard a couple of the singles so I am excited to check this out and let y’all know what I think!

The album opens on the title track, a short but beautiful piano intro track, one that sets the tone of the album perfectly and builds a great atmosphere and mood. It then leads perfectly into the bands debut single To The Light. A great, almost thrashy guitar riff opens it up, soon building up more and more with the added bass drum before exploding into a fantastic guitar solo right out of the gate. It took me by surprise but in the best possible way, Jack Tracey shredding right from the offset and sounding great. The vocals come in powerfully into the verse, it sounding awesome over the faster, chuggy guitars, almost feeling a little Judas Priest. The pre builds into a HUGE chorus, the backing vocals adding a great extra layer to make everything sound even more epic. The vocals themselves are catchy and Alex Mancini has such a great voice for rock, it sounding like a combination of Sully Erna and Michael Poulsen. The song drops down coming out of the second chorus into just drums and bass for a little bit until we get another awesome solo from Jack, this one slower and more emotion-filled than the others. The Myles Kennedy solo compared to the Mark Tremonti one, if anyone here is an Alter Bridge fan. It then soon explodes into a great final double chorus to take us home with. The lead guitar parts for the second half just scream Synister Gates in the best possible way, it giving off big The Stage vibes. It then solos out to finish. Overall, this was fantastic. A really solid hard rock/metal song where everyone got to shine. It was catchy and definitely a good idea for a lead single. Playlisted!

Next up is Kicked To The Floor. Opening on a great guitar riff that reminds me of Brocas Helm’s Cry of the Banshee, it soon builds up in equally Avenged Sevenfold style, this time sounding a tad reminiscent of Hail to the King, before the awesome little solo comes in to lead to the verse. The riff behind the verse is simple yet pretty heavy, yet again accenting Alex’s vocals perfectly over the top. There are more awesome backing vocals in the chorus, this one a little slower and sludgier, a mix of everything sounding like some sort of heavier Alice in Chains, I love it! We get a quick little breakdown riff with some soloing over the top before we head into the main body of the solo, it being another blistering, brilliant one. We then get another final chorus to finish things off. Another fantastic song!

Battle Hymn is their most recent release and one of the ones I have heard before. It mixes things up, opening on a sick drumbeat for a couple of bars before the guitar comes in over the top to follow it. It all builds up into another lightning-fast riff, the drums working overtime as we get blast after blast of heaviness from all the instruments. Another great little guitar lead melody leads us into a fantastic verse, the guitars dropping out for a lot of the first half and the vocals actually reminding me a bit of Tim McIlrath’s from Rise Against this time. A short pre heads into another huge sounding chorus, the lead guitar melody working so well alongside the catchy lead vocals, one that I would LOVE to hear live. We get some crazy, great drumwork heading out of the second chorus, some of the best I’ve heard in a while. It feels like it’s all building up into a breakdown but instead we get a massive couple of bridge riffs leading into another blistering guitar solo. We get another chorus afterwards before it fades out. This was one that had made the playlist anyway just from me listening to it as a single, but it’s even better in all of its non-radio-edited glory. Damn this was good.  

Shadows, the second single,opens on a great quick bassline, almost having a punk/funk edge to it, like I’m suddenly listening to Infectious Grooves. The guitars build up in two separate riffs before we hit the huge main one, a sludgy, doom-style one that sounds like a modern reimagining of Walk. The vocals come in for the verse over the top of the riff, giving room for the huge riff between each line. There are some awesome guitar harmonics and diverbombs etc, real Zack Wylde type stuff that fit the mood and tone perfectly. The chorus took me a bit of guard due to its simplicity, to the point where I didn’t even realise it was the chorus until it had finished, I was waiting for something as big as their other ones. However, it still sounded great and the backing/gang vocals really added a great layer to it. We get a great, faster single guitar riff after the second chorus, some lower, distorted vocals coming in over the top to really help build it more and more. It explodes into a heavier, more open version of the riff again and we get a simpler but very effective solo over the top before it just suddenly stops out of nowhere. An interesting arrangement to a pretty short song, one that I was not expecting at all but I definitely likes parts of it!

Palace Walls opens on a HUGE riff, slow and sludgy but definitely heavy. It then heads into a fast guitar riff out the back of it, reminding me a fair bit of Trivium. The riff opens up more and more, the drums being pretty slow as they head into the verse, it feeling like a completely different song to the opening 20 seconds or so. We get some heavy-ish drums for the pre but generally the song stays at around the same level and tempo throughout. It sounds great and definitely epic and heavy, but it did make it a little tricky to discerned which part was which. We do, however, get a pretty heavy riff coming out of the second chorus, it sounding the closest thing to the intro again, and another fantastic solo.

Wall of Lies is another slower, simpler song, built around a great metal guitar riff, almost sounding like the latter half of Sacred Mother Tongue’s work. There isn’t a lot I can say about the song, but there was just a real energy and feel to it that I loved. It was simple yet oh so effective and the chorus was one of the catchiest on the album so far. The solo was great too, short but perfectly fitting with the feel of the song. This one easily made the playlist for me!

We have no reached the last single from the album and another I had heard before this review, If the Gods be Good. It opens on an awesome metal guitar riff, soon heading into open, huge sounding verse. It doesn’t last long before we head into a massively catchy chorus, especially with the backing vocals and the ‘who oh oh’s at the end, a classic metal trope that works so damn well in this song. We get another great solo after the second chorus, combining both slower and faster, more technical playing into maybe my favourite solo on the album. We then head into another final chorus to finish things off. A basic, more radio-friendly song but a damn good one!

I’m Not a Bad Guy opens on a fantastic thrash riff, sounding like something ripped straight from an early Slayer album. The pace and heaviness doesn’t let up once through the verse either, the vocals sounding great and the odd gang vocals behind it also added so much depth and awesomeness to it. The lyrics walk that sometimes hard, thin line between angry and corny, but I think generally it works pretty damn well as a good, pissed off, angsty song. We also get our first proper, Bullet For My Valentine style breakdown in the song after the second chorus, the drums starting off with a solid beat before the guitars and bass follow suit. Another great, blisteringly fast solo follows it before we head into a slower, catchy little part to finish. I’m a thrash-head so this had me hooked from the beginning and didn’t disappoint, another one that quickly made the playlist.

Journey is unfortunately the final song on the album. This once again feels a lot like some of Bullet’s slower songs, it never going balls to the wall and stays at a slow-steady pace throughout, but it is all damn catchy and is a very, very good radio-rock song. It had everything I have come to expect and love from the band, a great heaviness, some amazing, powerful vocals and a short, sweet, awesome guitar solo thrown in for good measure. It was a damn good way to end an album and thankfully still at a pretty good pace, not an acoustic ballad to finish like is becoming so popular these days.

Overall: I loved this. To the point where they may be one of my favourite new find metal bands in a good long while. Every member is damn good at what they do and they are great songwriters when combined together. I would love to see a lot of this live and hope that I’ll be able to some time soon. I predict big things for them!

Overall: 7.5/10 

Pre-order the album here.

Check our more reviews here.

The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths

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