Review: Flogging Molly, Speed Of Darkness

Flogging Molly’s fifth studio album ‘Speed Of Darkness’ is an entirely different beast than any of the preceding albums. The band have taken a break from producing breakneck speed songs about drinking, politics and sailing the seas and have released a record of slower paced protest songs about the state of the economy.

That said the album starts with the title track and ‘Revolution which are throwbacks to the fiddle and accordion heavy shamrock and roll of the past but the lyrics are much darker and more brooding than on previous recordings. This is a theme that reverberates throughout the album. It’s as though the change in location from their native Los Angeles to Detroit has completely changed the dynamic of the music the band make.

Oddly though, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bands have to evolve to fit in with the times and the issues raised in the songs probably wouldn’t have the same impact if they were being shrieked over the top of the ferocious punk riffs and accordion stabs of old.

The album continues with the obligatory sea based song, ‘The Heart Of The Sea’, but this isn’t the typical cetic-music-inspired sea shanty, there’s groove to this with a deep, walking bass line leading you through accompanied by undulating accordions and violins. ‘Don’t Shut ’em Down’ is a solid yet mid-tempo song leading into the slow match of the politically charged marching song that is ‘The Power’s Out’ :”Yeah the power’s out, well there’s fuck all to see / Yeah the power’s out, like this economy / Yeah the power’s out, guess it’s par for the course / unless you’re a blood sucking leech CEO.”

‘So Sail On’ and ‘This Present State Of Grace’ are slow, melodic, acoustic guitar and accordion tracks interrupted by ‘Saints & Sinners’ which kicks the tempo back up with an aggressive sound and a fast pace, breaking up all the ballads in the last half of the album. The slowest and most ballad like song on ‘Speed Of Darkness’ is ‘The Cradle Of Humankind’ with it’s piano and slow weeping strings accompanied by Dave King’s sad vocals.

Just  before the end of the album comes ‘Oliver Boy (All Of Our Boys)’, a song about the religious conflict in Palestine which asks for a resolution before more young people die in vain.

The final tracks are ‘A Prayer For Me In Silence’ which is a beautiful, if not far too short, duet between King and his wife Bridget, the violin player, which nods a head towards ‘Big Iron’ by Johnny Cash. ‘Rise Up’ is the final song and the most uplifting, as though pointing towards a brighter future, but it still feels controlled and held back.

Overall this album isn’t what you would expect from Flogging Molly if you’ve followed them since the early days. If you discovered them with ‘Float’ then this may not be quite such a big departure and I think a wider audience will be able to connect with it, just like with the new Dropkick Murphys album earlier this year. That said, it’s not a disappointment either, there are some well crafted songs here and they fit with the Flogging Molly canon following ‘Float’, I just hope they move back to LA to make their next record as that city seems to inspire fun and frivolity.

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