27th May 2016 – Basick Records
02. Newborn Mind
03. Different Skin
04. Brought Here To Suffer
07. Of Jams, Smokes & Promises
When you think of Napoleon, the three words that spring to mind are probably ‘short’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘French’ – but the Exonian band who share his name are none of these – well, except maybe aggressive, in that tapping-at-your-fretboard-harder-than-a-woodpecker kind of way. Yet, it’s perhaps the infamous general’s notable combination of iron will, intellect and physical vigour that the quartet are more likely to want to emulate.
Newborn Mind, the group’s debut album, has been a long time coming, and is immediately eager to make up for lost time, opening with the short, snappy “Dystopia“. From the off Napoleon set a breakneck pace, with Sam Osborn’s guitar lines a mix of vivid, capering lead lines and underlying heft – think Killswitch Engage meets Intervals at a pizza party There’s a real grace to much of it however; the intro to single “Afterlife“, for example, is delicate in its intricacy, before rhythm section Jacob Brelsford and James Mendoza lay down some groove reminiscent of Northlane‘s Node last year – a real boon.
Osborn manages to eke some really interesting sounds out of what could a be a fairly monotonous musical voice; ”Remedy” feels like the soundtrack to a hyper-intensive video game at points, while the brief “Maps” presents as a relaxed, happy jam track. Saying that, for the majority of its runtime Newborn Mind is quite intense, and whilst that doesn’t necessarily translate into monotony, the super-posi, upbeat emphasis gets a little overtly sugary at points, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
What’s unquestionable is Napoleon’s attention to detail. Newborn Mind sounds great, with every facet – the harmonious tandem guitars, Wes Thompson’s ardent vocals, the gorgeous bass tones and every vigorous swing of a drumstick – captured expertly and universally audible throughout. They’ve clearly worked hard at this, and have been rewarded with ten songs well worth investigating.
Newborn Mind is an incredibly bright, mobile record, brimming with energy and exuberance. It’s perhaps a little relentless – some of that dynamism would do well to be translated into more sedate pieces, and it’d be well within Napoleon’s grasp – but for an album only just pushing past half an hour, it’s not really a massive problem. This is light, lively fodder for serious tech nerds; a showcase in intricacy but also something to have a bit of fun with.