Album Review: Twin Atlantic – GLA (2016 LP)

Despite being short for their hometown of Glasgow, GLA, the latest release from four-piece Twin Atlantic, may as well stand for ‘guitars, loud, aggressive’. Now onto their fourth full length release, the group have an unarguably high benchmark to meet on the back of 2014’s successful Great Divide, and they certainly give it a red hot go with this latest release.

The quartet waste no time in kicking the listener in the pants with opening track “Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator”. Although a straightforward three-minute distorted rock and roller of a track on face value, a second and third listen reveal the extent of the production on the track, with the vocals often receiving just as much distortion treatment as the guitars (the Scottish accent still pulls through as thick as ever, regardless). “No Sleep” follows up and takes the same aggressive theme but adds a much needed touch of refinement that doesn’t revolve around making lots of noise for the fun of it. Frontman Sam McTrusty’s vocals are the highlight of the show here with noticeable control throughout each chorus.

Following “No Sleep” we hit a bit of a lull in “You Are The Devil”, “Overthinking”, and “Ex El” – not necessarily bad songs, but all lacking anything that would allow them to stand out from the pack in their own right. Breaking the drought is “Valhalla”, a track that holds a strong claim for the title of best piece on the record. A recurring bass riff thicker than week-old oatmeal is the star of the show here, bringing a catchy but powerful vibe to the rest of the track that is reinforced by staccato backing guitars and the occasional synth throughout the verses.

“I Am Alive” follows its predecessor’s lead with a beat and riff combo that would fit in very easily at the beginning of future Twin Atlantic shows. “I Am Alive” is the gold standard for vocal production on the record, with just enough distortion and grit to keep it interesting without going over the top and making understanding it all a bit too hard.

Coming in at just shy of six minutes, “Whispers” is a lengthy killer of all the momentum built up by the previous two tracks; a pity, given the roll you as a listener start getting on on the back of possibly the two best tracks on the record. The very interlude-esque outro of “Whispers” does serve well as a build up to “A Scar To Hide”, however. The sole acoustic cut on GLA is the best opportunity that the listener gets to really focus on the lyrics and their delivery, both of which are top notch. Instrumentation is also well balanced here, with violins a welcome inclusion that are significant yet not overpowering.

“Missing Link”, “The Chaser”, and “Mothertongue” round out GLA with a similar brand of alt-rock as found in the middle of the record. GLA has consistent ups and downs, with every two or three tracks bringing a different vibe to the set before. Lyrics across the album take a back seat to the overall noisy production which benefits the rock and roll aesthetic of the record, while admittedly obscuring any idea of musical finesse that the group may have had in mind (if any at all). While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of variety in a record, the pacing on GLA is certainly jarring, which holds it back from being a truly great record.

Review Score: 7.1 out of 10.

GLA is out now.