By Geoff Topley
More Than Conquerors take their name from a verse in the Bible. The Belfast quartet's debut album Everything I've Learnt should provide them with success of Biblical proportions if there's any justice.
I've been aware of More Than Conquerors for some time, even though my local gig excursions are limited these days I still like to keep up with who's who on the local scene. Times have changed though, where once upon a time there were a flurry of indie-by-numbers acts doing countless gigs to varying crowd sizes, nowadays there's a limit to where you can play and how often you can do it. In recording terms, the ante has been well and truly upped, the performances from our bands have got so much better and the recorded output is of an exceptionally high standard. So shame on me for only getting round to hearing these boys now. But at least I have, in advance of their debut's release, and I can advise you that you really need to hear this record.
It's always nice to be taken completely by surprise as to how a band sounds compared to what I expected them to sound. I should have known that the excellent tastes of the good folks in charge at Smalltown America (home to Lafaro, Axis Of and Jetplane Landing) wouldn't sign anything other than greatness. More Than Conquerors keep up the label's fine tradition of mixing great melodies with raw rock n'roll performance.
The list of influences the band advise (Biffy Clyro, Manchester Orchestra, Brand New and Reuben) don't give me much to go on, I'm only familiar with Biffy, am I really that old?!! To these ears I'm hearing traces of Jane's Addiction and Rush, mostly down to singer Kris Platt's brilliant vocals. His higher register and ability to twist outrageously good melodies reminds me so much of Farrell's echoed styling or Geddy Lee's knack of wrapping melodies around complex guitar parts. He also sings with his own Belfast accent to the fore, trust me, this is a lovely thing. The music is primarily cross Atlantic in sound and a fake American twang would be unwelcome.
The vibrancy of this album is palpable from the get-go, opener 'All That We Can' bounces along on chunky riffs while the all-out earworm melody works its way into your head. Tracks like 'Pits Of Old' use a 'gang' vocal style to shout the lyrics at you, expertly welded to thunderous drums and a mountain of a chorus, tinted ever so slightly with a sadness and longing that Platt's vocals convey brilliantly.
'Amounts To Nothing' has snappy riffs in the verse and a (serious) Weezer meets Jane's Addiction chorus, it's a sure-fire hit. Introductory song that caught my attention 'Jaw' is loaded with hooks and uses a Pixies bassline, echoed vocals and superior melodies, lyrically concerning itself with immortality. Did I mention the chorus is a stadium sized killer?
Whilst the album prides itself on being loud and rifftastic, there are quieter moments, such as 'Bring Me To The Blood Bank', which is an affecting ballad, almost a hint of folk in the melody, the music turning to pump organ and acoustic guitar. 'Try-Antlers' also features traces of folk music in the vocal melody. Well, I hear it anyway!
Absolute highlight (of which there are so many) is the luxurious 'Six Weeks' which has a simply gorgeous verse, big fuck-off drums and a sublime chorus.
Have I convinced you yet? Are you even remotely intrigued to find out more about More Than Conquerors? I hope so, because these guys are going to be featuring on radio, on TV, in your car, certainly in my car, just about everywhere. Truly Northern Ireland's next big thing and deservedly so. My expectations are always increased when it comes to music from my own country, it's wonderful to find those expectations sounding great.