June 24, 2019 The Alarm – Sigma (Album Review)
Slated for release on Friday, June 28, 2019, through Twenty First Century Recording Company, Mike Peters and The Alarm return with their full-length Sigma.
Looking back before looking forward, the equally charismatic Mike Peters, with his band The Alarm, has been compared with his fellow, enduring Post-Punk Rockers Bono and the rest of U2. This is unsurprising, for both the vocal delivery and the instrumental approach of the music of their respective bands soar in the same spectrum. Albeit, Peters’ voice is much coarser and The Alarm’s music rawer and rockier, but both have that big, anthemic, stadium-ready quality of sound to them.
Formed in Rhyl, Wales, United Kingdom, in 1981, The Alarm released its debut album, Declaration, in 1984. This was followed by the commercial breakthrough Strength of 1985, which produced the now classic Post-Punk anthem “Absolute Reality.” A good number of albums ensued until the group’s demise in 1991. Through the course of the challenging decades that followed, Peters embarked on a solo career. He even briefly joined Big Country in the early 2010s, especially for the Scottish band’s comeback album, 2013’s The Journey. However, in 2004, Peters reactivated The Alarm with a new lineup, and continued to forge the burning path that The Alarm has always led.
Currently comprised of Peters on vocals/guitars/harmonica along with James Stevenson (Gene Loves Jezebel, Gen X, The Cult) on guitar/bass, Steve Barnard on drums, as well as Jules Jones Peters on keyboards, together they are set to unleash the follow-up to last year’s Equals. Titled Sigma, it significantly features The Alarm’s Original Guitarist Dave Sharp and Billy Duffy of The Cult, giving the hard-rockin’ album a more raw and sharper edge – characteristic of The Alarm’s earlier releases.
Consisting of 12 tracks, it starts off straightaway with its pumping lead single, “Blood Red Viral Black,” whose guitar works are unmistakably Duffy—electrifying, angular, confident. The same raw energy then flows into the engaging, double-time beat of “Can You Feel Me?” The ensuing “Brighter than the Sun” then casts its sinister and ominous sonic rays in an upbeat manner. Slowing down the mood with its rhythm that ticks like a pendulum is “Time,” aptly giving way to the acoustic sentiments of the Gospel-flavored “Psalm.”
Peters and the rest of The Alarm then welcome to the fold the founder-guitarist Sharp, as they launch into the galloping beat, piano flourishes, and slicing guitars of “Equals.” They then step onto the accelerator even harder with “Love and Understanding,” which harkens to the knife’s edge sensibilities of the band’s classic songs such as “Deeside” and “Rescue Me;” faint echoes of The Cult’s “Fire Woman” may also be heard.
“Prisoners” is another piano-led Rock stomper that proves that The Alarm could still harness the melodramatic power of the rain in summertime. And then there is the big, wiry, undulating, and electric sound of “The White Count.” Following next is the acoustic guitar–oriented ballad “Heroine” – another inspired song that stands proud and tall like a Joshua tree and faintly glows with a bluesy rattle and hum.
The second-to-the-last track, “Armageddon in the Morning” is a harmonica-and-synth-glazed Blues Rock epic at seven and a half minutes—refreshing, engaging, and catchy. Finally, The Alarm wraps up Sigma with the slow song “Two Rivers,” whose walking piano melodies will surely stay forever on one’s side—inspiring and heartrending at the same time—indeed a perfect album closer.
Peters is definitely one of Post-Punk’s unsung heroes, considering his low profile; but with The Alarm, his voice and their music, he is definitely up there in the pantheon occupied by the likes of Bono, Stuart Adamson (Big Country), Michael Been (The Call), Michael Hutchence (INXS), and Ian Astbury (The Cult), all of whose respective voices soar enormously like pained, tortured souls. Sigma is yet another vessel of The Alarm’s affecting music, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.