For many, the prospect of counting down the days to an album’s release is an exciting and familiar one, pouring over scraps of news and teased tracks, eagerly devouring anything and everything relating to the release. The flip side of this is, the risk one runs with such anticipation means that we’re often disappointed; a very real worry I had, when faced with the prospect of 'Forever Whatever', the debut album from Taunton’s October Drift.
Unlike some bands, those who get swept up in industry machinarium, rushing out an album within a year or two of forming, the process for October Drift has been a long one. Starting life as an ill-fated indie band, before blossoming into melancholic maturity, countless tours, a smattering of singles and EPs, and a steadily swelling army of fans have been leading up to this point.
It doesn’t disappoint.
An album born from desolation yet hinged on the sense of optimism that keeps people going throughout their darkest moments, 'Forever Whatever' is more than just a debut album. It’s a statement of intent, an aphorism, and a cathartic release.
Exploding with wails of feedback ‘Losing My Touch’ wastes no time in establishing one of the album’s, and indeed the band’s, defining features – a penchant for playing with dynamics, lulling listeners in to a false sense of security with understated, often tender verses before gut-punch choruses form walls of noise seemingly out of nowhere.
This exploration of dynamics can be found right across the course of 'Forever Whatever' but is most noticeable in those tracks which have made it from earlier in the bands career – ‘Cherry Red’, ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘Don’t Give Me Hope’. Coincidentally it’s these tracks that run the risk of letting the record down, having been a staple of the band’s show for what seems like, well, forever.
Thankfully, a new lick of a paint and beefed up production values finds the tracks sounding their best yet. Towering slabs of uncompromising bottom end are offset expertly against delicate lead guitars, exaggerating the dynamics in order to create a cloying sense of claustrophobia and tension that perfectly reflects Kiran Roy’s often heart-breaking lyricism. And while these tracks are still familiar, it’s a sense of familiarity; like seeing old friends after years apart - more mature yet still just as welcome.
While those established tracks offer plenty to get excited about, it’s the newer cuts which are most interesting, providing an insight into the direction in which October Drift are heading. ‘Milky Blue’ is airy and spacious, a heady and intoxicating haze laid thickly across loose guitars and themes of dissociating and existentialism.
Most recent single ‘Oh the Silence’ bridges the gap between the band’s heavier and more introspective moments, offering a slice a stadium-ready alt-rock that brings to mind the likes of Arcade Fire much more than the shoegaze comparisons that still dog the band. It’s the fittingly titled ‘Naked’ however that provides the record’s stand out moment.
An understated guitar is paired with sparse piano, allowing Roy’s vocals to take centre stage and really soar, the introduction of strings throughout the track’s lump-in-throat chorus swelling to an almost crescendo, threatening to drown out the vocal before easing to a gentle ebb that’s softer, yet offers little reprieve from the track’s inherent anguish.
It would be easy to dismiss 'Forever Whatever' as a stereotypical debut – built on aesthetics established earlier in the band’s career, some of those tracks making on to the final pressing – but the truth is, it really is so much more than that. It’s the culmination of years of arduous work, the product of love, of exercising mental health issues and of true DIY spirit that’s rarely seen in band’s these days. And while it’s clear that this is a record that’s personal to the band on so many levels, it’s also a record that will mean so much to so many more.
Bold and brash, tender and understated, and perhaps most importantly vital, a true contender for album of the year.
Words: Dave Beech
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