Despite releasing their debut single in 2012, ‘Primal’ is Battle Lines’ first major release. Yet it doesn’t sound like the patchwork one might expect from an album recorded over a long period of time. ‘Primal’ is stylistically uniform, combining cold synths and a guitar tone reminiscent of Joy Division or early The Cure. Battle Lines put their own spin on the post-punk revival style, creating something that sounds familiar, but not entirely like what’s come before.
There’s a bittersweet element to even the more up-tempo tracks like ‘Smother’ and ‘Outsider’, which sound more triumphant and empowering than outright happy. On more laid-back tracks like ‘Sea of Fear’ and ‘Wildlife’, Battle Lines channel some of The xx’s ambience, but keep things focused enough to stop it from venturing into tedium. Carly Humphries almost-operatic voice compliments both these styles, and adds a layer of emotion to the cold-sounding instrumentals.
There’s some musical and lyrical duality in ‘Hunting’ and ‘Skull’, documenting, it seems, the start and end periods of a romantic relationship. On ‘Hunting’, Humphries repeatedly sings “I’m in love with her”; while on ‘Skull’, Humphries tells the listener, in a similar melody as the former song’s chorus, that she is “close to tears” and “in awe of” the same woman. The musical styles of both songs reflect this as well: ‘Hunting’ incorporates psychedelic elements to convey the haze-like state which might be induced by love, while ‘Skull’ is slow and stripped-back.
‘Primal’ is bursting with well-executed ideas like these, but isn’t quite an album for the ages, as tracks like ‘Warfare’ and ‘Outsider’ are forgettable. Despite this, ‘Primal’ offers an enjoyable and interesting listen, and shows potential for Battle Lines’ future.
‘Primal’ by Battle Lines is out now on No Sleep Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)