To say there has been a lot of hype building up to the release of the debut album ‘Evolution Theory‘ by Modestep, would be a very crass understatement. Already wowing audiences worldwide, headlining festivals and building up a buzz that has not been heard of since Enter Shikari sold out the London Astoria before they even released their debut album, it is safe to say that this could easily be the most hotly anticipated alternative album of 2013. There have even been opinions suggesting that Modestep could even be the most forward thinking dance-rock act since The Prodigy, or even The KLF. However, time shall tell…
Before we go any further, one thing that needs to be said about this album is that it is self-produced and that it is a collective mash-up of influences held by each band member, amalgamated together to create what they feel sounds great, in hope that the rockers and the ravers worldwide feel exactly what they are creating. On the strength of their previous single releases ‘Sunlight‘ and ‘Feel Good‘ (which are included on the album), it is safe to say that they already stand in good stead.
The album intro ‘Show Me A Sign‘, is technically the first single to promote the album. However, it is probably the perfect opening introduction to this album. A synth line that progresses with filtered drums and guitars, and builds with Josh Friend‘s vocals resonating over the top: “This is for the ones who care/The one who isn’t always there/This one’s for you, now show me a sign“. Eventually, when it finally drops with the line “Put your f***ing lights up!“, it’s on. Upon the first listen, it is already immediate that Modestep have made their introduction necessary, but more importantly hearing this track live would definitely be something monumental. As it is pretty much a guaranteed dance floor hell-raiser.
There are a lot of collaborations on this album (particularly in the first half), with artists such as Foreign Beggars, Popeska, Newham Generals, Koven, D Power, Jammin, Frisco, Jammer, and Document One. The most noticeable thing about these collaborations is that there is an ever present influence and presence of innovators from the Garage/Grime music scenes. To the average alternative music stereotype, these two particular types of music are almost deemed blasphemy. But fortunately within alternative music in the past few years, more and more audiences are opening up to new and old forms of music, so in this respect it looks like Modestep could well be reintroducing these forms of music cultures to a whole new audience who may have not given it a chance.
The tunes ‘Burn‘, and the brilliant title track ‘Evolution Theory‘ stand testament to the Garage/Grime influence which happens to be one of the main loves of Modestep‘s DJ Tony Friend. Particularly on ‘Evolution Theory‘, this is definitely one of the album’s highlights in terms of musical progression, and all around awesomeness. With every MC that comes through, the music progresses from ambient to dubstep with D Power and Jammin, when Frisco comes along it turns in to dance-metal similar to that of ‘Their Law‘ by The Prodigy. Then ending with MC Jammer, the music advances in to a mind-blowing 90’s hardcore rave influenced drumbeat and synth break, then finishing off with a punishing dubstep drop. This song is a slice of absolute genius, and it does not necessarily sound like a poor mash up of things, it focuses on musical progression and feel which flows with pure ease.
Another album highlight is definitely ‘Praying For Silence‘ with Document One. A great blend of 80’s inspired electro, mixed with dubstep, glitch and progressive house. This is a destined crowd favourite without a shadow of a doubt. There are some heavier songs on here such as ‘Freedom‘. There is even a burst of a pure drum and bass demonstrated in ‘Leave My Mind‘. But the album also has its more serene and ambient moments with the song ‘Time‘, and to a certain degree with ‘Bite The Hand‘ to which the song eventually drops in to a 2-step paradise of bit-crushed bass and thumping drums.
After fifteen songs of varied audio assault, the album ends with ‘Saved The World‘, the album’s conclusion, which combines distorted yet smooth drum patterns with some epic sampled string/orchestral arrangements, culminating with a combination of hypnotic vocals, sweet guitar licks, 8-bit saturated electronics and a glitch/dubstep driven outro before calmly bowing out with a ballad-like guitar riff courtesy of guitarist Nick Tsang, to which the song opened up with.
Now with all this in mind, the album is not flawless by any means. Every song is its own entity. But at times there is quite a lot of over-compression used on the drums and guitars. But in their defence, trying to balance the production styles of electronic and rock-based music can be quite difficult, as compression is more so used in electronic production, whilst rock based music can often be quite raw, loud, and abrasive. Another particular flaw is that whilst there is some absolutely outstanding songs on this album, there seems to be a few weaker tracks which could be deemed as ‘fillers’, or tend to lose their strength or direction. Being a fifteen track debut album is quite a hefty load to digest, but what needs to be realised is that this is a collection of songs compiled on a non-conceptual album. Thus meaning that there is no constant flow to the songs going one after the other. This is probably the album’s weakest point. But with this in mind, the extent of vast musical influences displayed over the entirety of fifteen tracks is pretty impressive. Each song is its own musical concept, so fortunately there is a lot to discover within each track.
‘Evolution Theory‘ is a breath of fresh air but at the same time quite a lot to take in all at once due to its eclectic musical expansion. But with this in mind and with the prior knowledge of the demographic of audiences that Modestep appeal to, ‘Evolution Theory‘ is without a shadow of a doubt going to be MASSIVE. This is most definitely going to be one of the entries for the top 10 best-selling albums of 2013 in the UK, and possibly worldwide due to their intensely massive crossover appeal, loyal fan base, and musical diversity. Modestep have just gatecrashed the party, and whether you like it or not, they are going to be here for a very long time to come.
Reviewer: James Matthews