THE BIG TAKEOVER
|Return to The Alarm||
28 June 2019
by Kevin Burke
The Alarm are the gift that keeps on giving, a year and a day after their highly acclaimed Equals album, they release today a follow-up,∑ Sigma. To explain the album best is to put it in the context of cinema, if Equals is The Godfather then ∑ Sigma is The Godfather II. Keeping the album anchored in the same universe but expanding on the original ideas and concepts, at times even bettering the previous outing. Although both were due for release last year as a double album Blood Red Viral Black which was changed and focused switched to individual albums.
The energy and emotive passion of ∑ Sigma is powerful, the songs themselves wrote at a time of hardship for leader Mike Peters, the result for the listener is an astonishing piece of work. The dynamics of The Alarm are very much in place but the themes and quality of their execution at times, exceeds previous offerings. With a poignancy that runs energetically throughout the album, it is hard not to get swept away in the vivid description that is graphically on display.∑ Sigma opens with the barrage of the lead single “Blood Red Viral Black”, the emotion and theme is the very personal struggle of Peters but the music is exceptional, helped by the added flare of The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy. Following is the wonderful “Can You Feel Me”, starting with a guitar assault that dances between soft acoustic passages and transcendent choruses. “Brighter Than The Sun”, intensely dramatic, a track of deep, eloquent brilliance. That old-school sound, reminiscent of early Alarm, still holds a subtle touch of eighties U2, or even Big Country to it. The vocals of Mike Peters have matured and soar against the raw background, throwing an effervescent depth into every syllable he pours out. In reality the man is on top form here and unbelievably driven.
The life we take for granted is quantified in “Time”, a reflective slice of anguish about searching for the hope when that very life is fading. A love song of sorts, acoustically driven and one of the many standouts of the set. As if a thanksgiving prayer, “Psalm” is stripped further back to a wholly organic construction with an uplifting chorus. Whatever the desolation was within the mindset of Peters at the time of this songs’ creation, he has really thrown every inch of passion into its delivery. A reunion on “Equals”, with the guitar work of original Alarm guitarist Dave Sharp who really lifts the second part of the recording wonderfully.
The CD only “The White Count” shifts through piano and crunching guitar strokes, really taking the momentum into the 21st century. The theme slips into the cancer which Peters fought against (blood cells), although the conceptual statement hinges on his struggle with the illness, it does not overpower the album. Such as in “Heroine”, a ballad of the strength of the soul partner, the love which saves you and gives you hope. The vocal lines are heartbreakingly stark and very real. There is an unexpected turn, “Armageddon In The Morning” opens with breakbeats, and some harmonica injection on top of the full band sound this is wonderful stuff. The album finishes with a reprise of the Equals number “Two Rivers” this time with a slight change to the lyrics as if the journey is complete but a perfect ending.
Overall, Mike Peters and The Alarm has really brought out an interesting album that locks the audience in at an early stage. Lovers of the original incarnation will feel at home, newcomers will simply have a door opened to further discovery. Of course everything on The Alarm front is all positive as a selection of dates billed as The Sigma LXXXV Tour(Dates Below), going across forty North American cities. Accompanying The Alarm is Post-Punk legends Modern English and Jay Ashton’s Gene Loves Jezebel, this all makes for thrilling stuff from a band who first set the scene alive thirty-eight years ago.
SIGMA LXXXV TOUR
July 17 — Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge *The Alarm only July 19 — Austin, TX3Ten Live