album review ~ linebacker dirge ~ 'take shelter'

'Take Shelter' is out now...
The art of the 'supergroup' is incredibly difficult to get right. If you look back at the long list of collaborations and pairings of musicians, who have came together to record an album, there are, ofcourse, a few success stories (Gary Lightbody's 'Tired Pony' or Damon Albarns 'The Good The Bad and The Queen' for example) but many more have  failed to live up to their talented lineups previous achievements. This week Encore NI takes a look at 'Linebacker Dirge', the brainchild of singer, songwriter Jason Gibson, who has to date already released two successful EP's,  gaining rave reviews amongst local alternative-indie circles in the process. 'Linebacker Dirge' revolve around the lyrical and musical styling of Gibson, while incorporating some of Northern Irelands  most talented and pioneering local artists to realise his visions. Taking the raw passion and energy of A Plastic Rose's lead guitarist Ian McHugh, the intricate basslines of A Northern Light's Colm Laverty and the blistering drumming of James 'Tree' Bruce from post-rock outfit Kasper Rosa and suddenly the expectations for Linebacker Dirge's completely self produced debut album are raised alot higher.

'Take Shelter' begins as it means to go on, with a hypnotic guitar riff setting an instantly enticing tone. Gibsons raspy vocal delivery gives the song an immediate incentive, making it clear that he has no desire to hide behind a synthesizer or heavy distortion. It creates a raw honesty that is reflected in the pulsating rhythm of a track that clearly holds onto a lot of anger. The sudden tempo change of the chorus is difficult to adapt to at first, but the short nature of the song allows it to flourish to a tempestuous ending, reminiscent of a young Biffy Clyro. It's an ending that allows Gibson's vocals to truly stretch itself, with belief and passion radiating from every word. The whispered ending line of 'I've died inside', providing a beautifully melancholy ending.

This is followed by 'Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates', a guitar driven juggernaut which keeps the momentum of the title tracks chorus alive through explosive drumming and foot stomping rhythms. The chorus also shows an emotional fragility, permeating through Gibson's trademark angry plea. 'and I wish I knew, how to say to you to help you realise, that this is what you and I deserve'. The song continues at this pace, the growing emotion in Gibsons voice complimented beautifully by the violin of Affleck's Aiden Kelly. The highlight of the song, however, comes just before the final chorus as Gibson almost screams the words 'So what do you deserve?' as a wave of guitars blast in the background. It paints a searingly honest and heartfelt insight into the frontmans troubled mind, as the song fades into a series of melodic guitar riffs and driving drum beats.

Which brings us to what may well prove to be the hidden gem of this formidable debut, the raw, passionate plea of 'Words Are Missing'. With a lead riff that washes over like a sonic wave, the verses of this beautifully constructed song build slowly, the powerful vocals bursting into life around the 30 second mark. The anger and pain of the track really becomes clear at the erratic and tumultuous tempo change in the chorus. After such a delicate opening the sudden speed of an energised chorus shouldn't really work, however the precision and ease at which it's executed instead simply serves to highlight the groups musicality.

The interestingly titled 'Suzumushi Tsuishiki Enma Korogi' adds a Deaf Havana element to proceedings, a slow and atmospheric intro building to upbeat and catchy verses. Things slow again as the song progresses, again the atmospheric elements strengthened by Kelly's violin.  'Tiburon' which follows, again reverts back to Linebacker Dirges angrier tendencies. 'We broke against them, their families for freedom' Gibson snarls, the pain evident in every syllable.

'Blood Bruise' see's the band at their full frontal best, producing a song with the lyrical intensity of American punk rockers Rise Against, while ensuring their authentic sound remains dominant. Frantic, fast paced interplay between drums and guitars ensure that this quick fire assault on the senses will go down a storm live.

'Fall of the Armada' follows a similar formula, with verses spat out in indignant rage and high tempo speed drumming, while 'Burnt Out' continues the recurring themes of isolation of personal grievance through a more sorrowful tone, with a mournful guitar riff and for the first time, a predominant bass line. The song has a slower breakdown, allowing Ian McHugh's lead guitar to fully express itself through intricate solos.

'A Great Northern' provides a wonderful breaking point for the album, as an ethereal acoustic guitar intro paves the way for more of Gibsons melancholy tales. You can feel the singer almost breaking down mid song, as the emotional weight he's carried throughout the album begins to take its tole, yet he hangs in to produce one of his most brutally honest deliveries on a seemingly very personal track.

Linebacker Dirge then return to their electric guitars as 'A Short History Of Shuck And Jive' begins. Here Gibson gives arguably his best vocal performance, as the band express their emotion with less evident anger, but by no means less conviction. An atmospheric, almost electronic, style guitar solo provides a wonderful and assured break up, as it builds to a climactic chorus that could (dare I say it) be compared to a "Riot!" era Paramore. Excellent.

If the rest of the album showcases the bands frustration with the world and everyone on it, 'Valar Morghulis' is an outward statement of confusion and bewilderment in the situation we all find ourselves in. 'Cause you can flick off like a light-switch, even before you hear the end of this sentence'. An honest statement of frustration and bewilderment to whatever or whoever is in control of the universe. A beautifully constructed ending captures the confusion perfectly.

Both 'Rudderless' and 'A Descent' provide an appropriate end to the album. The military style drumming of 'Rudderless' shows a lighter side to the band, as talks of 'Dancing to Daft Punk in the kitchen' and  'everyone laughing in unison' replaces the emotionally strained honesty of other tracks. Just as you thought this sweetness may last, Linebacker Dirge burst into a trademark thrash, turning up the distortion and Bruce hammering out the kind of drumbeat that has won him many admirers in Kasper Rosa. 'A Descent' follows with a similar pattern, building from a slow and embellished riff to a high tempo chorus. As the song continues it improves, moving from an early Radiohead style grunge, to one the albums strongest anthems. Yet just as you think it's all over, the album hits its high point. Wait through fiver minutes of silence and you'll be greeted by an incredible piece of uplifting piano. The hidden track dives elegantly through Gibson's passionate vocals as  'Take Shelter' is given not only the indie-styled ballad it's been missing, but also the most reassuring and positive ending an album like this could ever not have wished for. An incredible and unexpected conclusion.

'Take Shelter' is an album which could so easily have been consumed and judged by the quality of the musicians on it, yet instead it's a testament to their professionalism and dedication. An album made of virtually no budget, it will serve as a lasting reminder to local bands far and wide that if you want something enough, you have to make it happen.

Review by Taylor Johnson.

Listen and download 'Take Shelter here & keep up to date with all Linebacker Dirge official news here.

Stand out tracks; '[words are missing]', 'Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates', 'A Descent' (Bonus Track)'

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