Released Friday 6th October 2023
The second album from the Norwegian sextet piece is some 4 years after their pop rock tour-de-force debut “City of Lights” and the intervening years have clearly been used wisely to hone their writing and playing styles. David Nikolaisen’s lead vocals are crisp, clear and considering English is not their mother tongue his use of vocabulary is sublime, very much evidenced in the shortest track, the simplistic Dark was the Night with an echo effect vocals and guitars, sounding as if they were recorded live in an empty church. However, the guitar (and piano) playing from Javier Nicolas is the surprise of the record, the crunchy fuzz tones and gorgeous solos in Speak of the Devil and the closing title track are proof that the band has evolved and pushed themselves to build upon the debut record.
The rhythm section of Ole Petter Bøe, Marin Yanev, Lars Sollie and Johan Breivik is a tight-knitted wall of sound creating a backbone for the above two to build around, production and Engineering are vital components, and these have been executed very well, the subtle bass lines in several tracks poke out here and there and the heavy guitars and drums although evident never choke the vocals.
11 original tracks lasting around 40 minutes cover garage band homage to fellow Scandi band The Hives with Feels so Good, funky grooves with Somebody and balls-to-the-wall punk rock with Voices all demonstrating the strengths and weakness of the band. The high-water mark is reached when the singalongs, near anthemic tunes belt out, lights out, the previous released singles Monster, with clever time changes with almost giant Troll foot step thumping beats and the delightful power ballad-esq Goodbye Blackbird send earworms in every direction.
This album is bookended by two yet different sounds, showing how The Golden Leaves ebb and flow into shade and darkness to create interesting and attractive music. Rebel, Saint and Sinner is an album that deserves to grab the attention of the masses and I would not be surprised if this record is the soundtrack to the band’s future and propels them to much bigger things.
This may not be the best rock album of 2023, but I haven’t heard one yet to match it.