June 12, 2019 Bastille – Doom Days (Album Review)
After gaining worldwide attention for their 2013 hit song “Pompeii,” British Alternative Pop act Bastille were on the fast track to success with their multi-platinum-selling debut album, Bad Blood. A journey that being as an indie, unsigned band few years earlier, they have been on an upward climb since, and return on Friday, June 14th with their new studio album, Doom Days, by way of Virgin/Universal Records.
Their first full-length effort since 2016’s Wild World, this time around the four-piece band follow the route of a concept album. Their third overall LP, the story follows along with a narrator as he journeys to the end of night, with each of the 11 tracks serving as a chronological retelling of a twilight filled with drinking, sex, dancing, and no regrets. Beginning with “Quarter Past Midnight,” it is not long before fans are treated to Dan Smith’s signature vocals. Paired elegantly with a piano, it slowly builds up during the course of its three plus run, full of increasing tempos and feel-good vibes. A fitting start to the album, serving as bridge between their last outing Wild World and now, next is “Bad Decisions,” a cut which confidently places Smith’s vocals front and center. While the first half of the track sounds like it could have been pulled from a mid-2000s Pop tune, the latter half could have been ripped from a soulful R&B track with soothing vocals during the bridge.
Thereafter, “The Waves” comes in and it is at this point that the album, and the night, begins to slow down. Chilling siren-like vocals hover over an instrumental tracking that would make Beck envious as Smith’s vocals yet again are highly sonorous. Keeping with the mellower vibe, “Divide” could be the slowest yet as our narrator asks, “Why divide when we could come together?” Serving as both societal metaphor and sexual innuendo, the vocals are at their purest while there is no overt studio magic as a piano serves as the primary instrument, wisely adding a degree of intimacy that pairs well with the song’s themes.
Rounding out the first half of the album is “Million Pieces” with muffled vocals which morphs into a ’90s Dance beat. It is where Smith’s self-harmonization reaffirms his mastery of sound, and bandmates – Kyle Simmons (keys), Will Farquarson (guitar), along with Chris Wood (drums) – create sounds that elevate a traditional Pop song to something wholly new and inventive. This is all before the album’s title-track, which is both the shortest and most interesting on Doom Days, if not the band’s entire discography. First, you hear a guitar in the distance before Smith croones with Imogen Heap-like auto-tuning and layering, employing a thicker accent than usual. Then, throughout the just-over-two-minute duration, the instruments glide from Rap beats to ’80s Synth to plucked strings and EDM. More of this, please.
Moving along, “Nocturnal Creatures” follows as Smith states, “Let every night play out the same, ’cause I wouldn’t change a thing.” Done so in true Bastille fashion, the band endorses living a life free of regrets, with this in particular serving as that philosophy’s anthem. This is before Sublime-like love song “4AM” and “Another Place,” which sees Smith falling for his one night stand. Singing “Don’t make promises to me that you’re gonna break,” for the first time, the character of the story isn’t just looking for a good night; he is looking for a better future.
A pivotal point in the story, it follows with “Those Nights,” where Smith’s pining reaches a fever pitch. “You never get to Heaven on a night like this,” he laments after an opening melody reminiscent of Miley Cyrus’ “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart.” Seguing nicely in the finale, on “Joy,” the character of the tale has finally made it to the morning. Melding together elements from every track before, it serves as a jubilant conclusion whose upbeat tempo and positive message makes for a bright start to a new day and even brighter wrap-up for solid album.
Overall, while Doom Days may lack anything with the staying power of the mega-hit “Pompeii,” Bastille has still managed to craft a record worthy of repeat listens. In times where people across the globe are becoming more cynical and jaded, Bastille cling firmly to hope, happiness, and the healing powers of accepting and celebrating our failures. A beautiful message told in a beautiful way, Cryptic Rock gives Doom Days 4 out of 5 stars.