Written by Gareth Franklin

I think we all have a “nearly” band. That band that you “nearly” hear, but come into the room just after the song finishes on the radio. That band you “nearly” see, but they played the venue the week before, or were the support act before you arrived. The band you “nearly” check out, but then realize it’s 2:30am and you need to get up for work at 5am.

Well, The Virginmarys were my “nearly” band. They’ve played a venue close to my house a few times, yet each time I’ve been working, had no money or not even been in the country. So when I was offered the chance to review their new album, Divides, there was only one answer I could conceivably give – a big fat yes.

  • Artist: The Virginmarys
    Album Title: Divides
    Release Date: 29 April 2016
    Label: Wind-up Records
    • Push the Pedal
    • For You My Love
    • Halo in Her Silhouette
    • Free to Do Whatever They Say
    • I Wanna Take You Home
    • Walk in My Shoes
    • Kill the Messenger
    • Into Dust
    • Moths to a Flame
    • Falling Down
    • Motherless Land
    • Living in My Peace
Push the Pedal” gets us off to a cracking start, with the sort of pounding drumbeat that gets your foot tapping away. Yes, I occasionally play air drums. It’s a thing. For an opening song for any album, this is one hell of a song. Ironically for a song with this title, this would be a great song to drive along to (just watch the foot tapping).

For You My Love” keeps the rock flowing freely. I’ll be honest – when I read the title, I was half-expecting some sort of ballad. Considering this song contains the lyrics “if I die, I will die for you my love”, I’m not sure it is a ballad. But this is a seriously catchy song – it reminds me of another song, possibly “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin, in a strange sort of way.

There’s no let up from here on either – though “Halo In Her Silhouette” brings on a strange sort of English accent in the singing. It works here – I’m not sure many other bands could have pulled it off, but here it seems almost effortless. Which is a ‘Very Good Thing.’

virginmarysThree songs into this album and yet it feels like more and less at the same time, if that makes sense. It’s the sort of album that, while listening to it you feel like it’s familiar yet new at the same time. It feels like you’ve been listening for hours, yet it’s been minutes – or minutes and it’s been hours. It’s almost an album of contradictions – but in a good way.

Free To Do Whatever They Say” feels like it’s a call to arms, an anthem of sorts. It’s one of those songs that you could conceivably see being sung loud and proud at any gig – be it an intimate venue like the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill or a massive venue like Slane. This is a song that could conceivably be used as a Bond theme – if the people behind Bond music appreciated rock music (yes, we did have Chris Cornell. But come on…really?)

The rest of the album follows along much in the same vein. Big guitars, rolling drums and incredible vocals that will make you want to find the rockiest thing you have nearby and use it as a microphone. Not that you’ll be able to emulate them. You can try recreating the guitar riffs as well, but these are seriously good. And the air drumming? Have some Deep Heat to hand…

Walk In My Shoes” is probably the closest we get to a ballad – and by close, it’s not that close. It’s just that it starts off slightly…mellower possibly. But this is another cracking song. And it’s only dawning on me now that I’m halfway through the album…yet it feels like more. And less. Damn contradictions…

Kill the Messenger” is, for my money, the best song on the album. Get your air drumkit ready – you’ll need it here. And I’m going to whisper the next part…I was strangely reminded of Chris de Burgh on this song. But decent Chris de Burgh (think “Don’t Pay The Ferryman,” not “Lady in Red”). Don’t ask me how, or why.

If you’re in any way offended by ‘explicit language,’ then maybe skip “Into Dust.” If not…enjoy. It’s another rollicking good song. There’s not a lot of words that could potentially offend here…well, I counted one. Still, worth a warning and all that.

Moths To A Flame” brings us (sort of) gently back to earth, with echoes of Pink Floyd in places. This is another song that I could see being a bit of a crowd-pleaser, and for good reason.

I could give you in-depth analysis on the last three songs of the album, but where would the fun be in that? There needs to be a bit of mystery for you…but needless to say, they don’t disappoint. This is one of the few albums I’ve listened to that doesn’t have a duff track on it. Even with other massive artists, there’s usually one song that makes you go ‘meh, was that it?’ Not here. This album is top notch from beginning to end.

I’ve never given out this score before, and I reckon it’ll be a long time before I do it again…but it’s a definite 10 from me.

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