There are a number of rock outfits right now who are taking the sounds of the past and making them feel new again. But while many acts are mining the music of 90s alternative rock or early 70s psychedelia, Imogen Brave seem to take inspiration from the stadium rockers of the late 1980s with their new EP, Fall or Fly.
This is no exercise in retro-stylings, however; though mixing in some grunge riffs and the powerhouse vocals of Stef Crowley, they manage to make these sounds feel fresh and vibrant. The seven song EP is a slick offering, with the four piece delivering a lesson in loud and potent rock. And while this begs to be played loud, it’s not just an all out assault on the ears; there are subtleties at work here through some thoughtful and interesting song construction. Dynamics are used really well, allowing tracks to build in intensity and occasionally surprise the listener.
Fall or Fly opens with “Closer”; Crowley’s gutsy voice emotes over a bass guitar before driving guitars set the searing pace of the track and the kind of intensity that we find throughout the EP. The tone then drops down a notch with “In Spite”, allowing Crowley to demonstrate the depth and versatility of her vocals.
“Alive” is a massive song built around a very 90s sounding bass line. There are some really big moments here, but effective dynamics leave space to balance the mix. “Bang Dead” is crafted in a similar vein, and perhaps the most interestingly constructed song of the EP. There are stops and starts, and a surprising choral section to end the track that really works.
Giving us the title of the EP, “Vices” is another song that builds, starting with creeping guitar riffs before opening up to a big chorus. “Nothing At All” contains some nice guitar work in the bridge and has Crowley’s voice sounding softer and more emotionally available. The EP then finishes up in a similar way to its opening with “Stay Awake”, a belter of a song with scorching rhythms and Crowley in full voice.
Imogen Brave are a hard working outfit that have developed a reputation for their strong, visceral live performances. Fall or Fly is a satisfying effort that effectively captures some of that live intensity; you get the feeling that these tracks will go down well when played at full volume in front of an audience. But there is also suitable light and shade here, with some interesting ideas and strong production values.
As a band they may look to the past for inspiration, but their music is not just derivative. With thoughtful song construction and the soaring voice of Crowley, there is enough here to lift those hard rock sounds from the 80s and 90s and make them sound vital and fresh once again.
By Matthew Trainor