Electro-rock can be a tricky genre to digest. When it’s done well, it can be euphoric but it can also be lacklustre. For Bristol’s Area 11 it is, unfortunately, the latter. Having achieved quite a bit as an unsigned act; impressive social media numbers and sold out headline tours, Area 11 have decided to step up their game and joined Cooking Vinyl.
‘Modern Synthesis’ fits neatly into what you expect to hear from an electro-infused rock act. Early cuts such as ‘Overdrive’ and ‘The Contract’ back this up, passing through with little impact. Each track is glossed over with a slick, accessible layer that makes the album feel lightweight as a whole. The mix of straight-up Brit rock with underlying synths has been done more effectively by others. Vocally, Tom ‘Sparkles’ Clarke provides a mixed performance. On ‘Watchmaker’ his soaring lines are delivered with conviction, yet on ‘Angel Lust’ are ineffective and sounding forced.
‘Processor’ does it best to stir up a highlight with its balladesque build giving way to a mix of energetic riffs, guttural screams and a soaring pop hook. Elsewhere, ‘The Life Of A Ghost’ highlights Alex Parvis’ stringent guitar playing as he wails throughout.
Nevertheless, for the most part ‘Modern Synthesis’ fails to leave an impression. ‘Versus’ is your inevitable “sounds like Enter Shikari” number. ‘After The Fangs’ could have been written by any rock band down your local, and ‘Nebula’s melodies borrows from something you can quite pinpoint yet has a strong sense of familiarity to it. The dramatic ‘Panacea And The Prelogue’ pulls the album over the finish line.
When there is an abundance of emerging British bands who are genuine and exciting to hear, bands of Area 11’s ilk are forgettable. Sure their brand of slick electro-rock has the capability to draw in a crowd, but from hearing ‘Modern Synthesis’ it’s clear they lack longevity and, more importantly, ideas.
‘Modern Synthesis’ by Area 11 is out now on Smihilism Records/Cooking Vinyl.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)