Band: Ward XVI
Album: The Art Of Manipulation
Release Date: 1st July, 2017
Label: Self Released
Review by John
“I wasn’t insane. Although ten years in that hellhole is enough to make anybody insane”.
So begins “The Art Of Manipulation”, the full length debut from Preston’s Ward XVI. An atmospheric concept album based around, according to their bandcamp “the story of a female psychopath locked away in a high security asylum, delving into her past life and telling the story of how she manipulated a man into killing for her”.
The story unfolds over 12 tracks of hauntingly melodic metal (plus a few spoken word pieces that keep the tale moving along), and does a fine job of taking the listener on a twisted journey to the very depths of madness.
It’s a bold move, but one that Ward XVI seem to pull off effortlessly.
Right from the very beginning, you find yourself fully absorbed as the whole sordid affair unfurls. Eerie opener ‘Take My Hand’ begins as a beautifully atmospheric piece before bursting into life at the end and blending smoothly into ‘The Art Of Manipulation’, a full on, theatrical rock number.
What really stands out is the variety of styles on offer. From the more melodic tunes such as the aforementioned ‘Take My Hand’, ‘Ward XVI’ or the simply beautiful ballad ‘Hold Me’ to more full on metal numbers ‘The Flight’ (a fist pumping, anthemic offering), and ‘Blackened Heart’.
Then you have the more off the wall stuff, where the band throw a few more eccentric touches into the mix. Both ‘Crystal Ball’ and new single ‘Toy Box’ employ liberal use of the accordion (a much underused instrument in the metal community) and find a sound with shades of Gogol Bordello, only heavier and catchier. A kind of “circus polka metal” if you will.
Add in tracks such as electronica influenced sound of ‘Cry Of The Siren’ and the groove laden yet undeniably heavy ‘Run For Your Lives’, and you can’t help but be hooked.
In their live shows the band employ heavy theatrics and as a consequence the musical side can tend to be a little overlooked. With no such distractions, it becomes clear that there is an incredible amount of talent within the band and they are not content to churn out a generic sound that you can easily pigeonhole.
‘The Art Of Manipulation’ is one of the most unique and enjoyable albums I’ve heard this year. Never predictable, deliciously twisted and an insane amount of fun, it keeps the listener interested throughout.
Check yourself in for a stay on Ward XVI, embrace the madness and allow yourself to be manipulated.
Just be warned – you may never check out and, even if you do, you will not be quite the same afterwards….
02. Take My Hand
03. The Art Of Manipulation
05. The Flight
06. Crystal Ball
07. Hold Me
09. Blackened Heart
10. Run For Your Lives
12. Cry Of The Siren
15. Inner Demon
16. Ward XVI
Visit the band on Facebook: www.facebook.com/WardXVI
Get the album here: wardxvi.bandcamp.com