The Virginmarys ain’t had it easy the last few years. Following the release of their mighty sophomore album ‘Divides’ in 2016, the Macclesfield band found themselves at a crossroads. The end of their record contract and the shock departure of bassist Matt Rose left the duo of vocalist/guitarist Ally Dickaty and drummer Danny Dolan with an uncertain future.
Well, you can’t keep a good band down. They picked themselves up, wrote songs and set about doing things independently as a two-piece band. With a new lease of life and a sense of ultimate freedom, the band took things into their own hands, self-producing and self-releasing last year’s critically acclaimed ‘Sitting Ducks’ EP. Now, they release their third and possibly most important album of their career.
Produced and engineered by Ally, during the hottest summer for years ‘Northern Sun Sessions’ is a massive sounding rock album. With its anthemic vocal hook, opener ‘Look Out For My Brother’ immediately sets the tone with pounding, indie beats, big guitars and cool dynamics. It’s clear from the off the band have lost none of their irresistible Northern charm as Ally preaches a message of unity to all who will listen.
The following ‘SOS4UNI’ continues that epic, cinematic feel the band managed to capture on their previous albums. Ringing chords and tribal beats make way for haunting, atmospheric backing vocals. With passion and fire in their bellies, the duo bash out the chorus as Ally spits the lyrics with Northern-tinged venom.
I find it hard to define The Virginmarys sound, which is always a good thing in a band. But, maybe they truly have morphed into Motorhead meets New Model Army. They definitely are a rock band, now more than ever. I mean, there’s a rhythmic QOTSA meets Royal Blood vibe on the likes of ‘Eye For An Eye’ and ‘Wanna Be Free’, a killer intensity in the rousing chorus of the former with immense regimental drums.
Yet, there are several elements that set them apart from most modern rock bands. They have a knack of creating visuals with the lyrics and the music in a way that not many bands can achieve. Ally has a way with words that draws you in like you’re sharing the ride with him as you take in every bend of a guitar string and every vocal nuance. Whether he’s commenting socially or politically you connect spiritually with what he has to say and what he is feeling.
It might be the guttural vocal delivery of ‘Blind Leads The Blind’ that gets you or the pogo-inducing chorus of ‘Step Up’ that hits the spot, but believe me…something will hit the spot. Maybe it’s when Ally lays himself bare for all to see on the emotive title track, as he swears he’ll never drink again over picked chords with his eyes closed. Or again on ‘Flags’ as he states “six years sober, I’m still hungover”. One thing’s for sure, clever wordplay and a knack of building a song to an epic conclusion is never far away.
‘Get Me Back Home’ shows a slight departure for the band with its trashy blues feel and slide guitar goodness. But its album closer ‘All Fall Down’ that steals the show and reverberates long after the virtual needle has lifted. It’s a classic, signature Virginmarys dark brooder that builds, then drops, creating atmosphere. Ally hits you in the feels with his words as Danny surrounds his verse with wave after wave of percussion.” Waiting like a ticking bomb… like a loaded gun”, you wait on his every word as the song reaches an intense crescendo, Ally screaming his lungs out like his life depends on it. Holy shit, what a killer way to end an album!
In an uncertain musical climate, many bands have taken their careers into their own hands in one way or another. We all love an underdog, right? Well, The Virginmarys are the underdogs, not only have they taken the bull by the horns, but they’ve sunk their teeth in and refuse to let go. ‘The Northern Sun Sessions’ is an album filled with passion and fire, and most certainly a career-defining album for this Macclesfield duo.