CD Review: New Model Army - Between Wine and Blood

Veteran band uses time off to record six great new songs.
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While New Model Army was on tour for their critically acclaimed album, Between Dog And Wolf, drummer Michael Dean was diagnosed with blood clots in his leg, forcing the postponement of the spring leg of the tour. The band, riding high on the momentum of some of the best reviews of their three-decade-plus career, decided to take this newfound time off and head back to the studio. The resulting mini album, Between Wine And Blood, mixes six new songs with a disc of live material from the Between Dog And Wolf Tour.

The album opens with the gritty rocker "According To You." Singer Justin Sullivan gives a defiant vocal over a distorted guitar backdrop and a melodic chorus. If Bruce Springsteen were a modern rocker, he might sound like this. It's a strong opener that definitely carries over the momentum the band gained from the last album and tour.

"Angry Planet" is a driving track that finds an infectious, dirty guitar riff over an acoustic guitar backdrop. Here and throughout the mini album, the band manages to merge aggressive music and lyrics while remaining melodic. The sounds of thunderstorms open "Happy To Be Here," a moody, atmospheric track. Sullivan offers a subdued vocal over a strong bass line from Ceri Monger. In the midst of the harder rocking numbers, this song is a nice change of pace with its minimalist approach.

Tribal drums and lush keyboards propel "Devil's Bargain, a track that builds in intensity. Sullivan's vocals are inspired on this standout song. Wah-drenched guitars bring the track to an explosive conclusion. The album ends the way it begins, with a straight-ahead rocker, "Sunrise." The song mixes pop choruses over a driving backdrop and ends the album strongly.

The live disc features 11 tracks recorded on the band's most recent tour. Among the standouts are an aggressive "Storm Clouds" and a potent "Between Dog And Wolf." The disc showcases the band's considerable live chops as they deliver onstage as well, if not better, than in the studio.

Three decades on, New Model Army is making some of the best music in their career. While other bands may have just taken the time off after a medical setback such as the one suffered by Dean, New Model Army delivered six great new songs in the form of Between Wine And Blood.