When Weapons’ lead single Better Off Dead was released as a free download on Lostprophets’ website this January, it blazed as a song of revolution, a figurehead prepared to stand up for silenced voices. Stuttering over almost-raps, the track positions itself as a fiery tirade against the world that any disaffected individual might be proud to call their own – all scrappy, metallic backing and wild cries of “GO!” that launch headfirst into the choruses with brutal abandon. Bristling with confrontation, Better Off Dead casts the band as tooled-up brawlers, and across the album it’s in this guise that they excel at their thrilling, sharp-edged best.
Bring ‘Em Down follows the ideology well, and brings laser-shot synths to the party, letting loose a torrent of chaos and pumped-up gutsiness. It’s a raucous fist-punch of animalistic energy – like Lostprophets have gulped down Enter Shikari‘s A Flash Flood of Colour and fashioned their own take on it. But vitally, there’s also an overriding current of inclusiveness, of the group ethic, to which the listener is also invited: “Sing it out my friend, bring it down again.” 2011’s summer riots depicted a broken Britain torn asunder by flame and materialism – here Lostprophets offer a strong arm of companionship to stand against disorder, and also a proper unity born of companionship. Heart On Loan plays to similar themes, with an aching platitude to a lover that they’re “never going to make it alone”. Amidst the flanged guitar riffs, the chorus fires like a slipstream volley of intent – heat-seeking its way to the hearts of any willing listener. It’s a trait that was always one of the band’s most attractive elements, their ease at crafting songs that – perhaps more than any of their close contemporaries – truly spoke to the core emotions in a way that felt fundamentally natural.
But while Weapons often hits its mark with unerring accuracy, it’s certainly not without its failings. A significant chunk feels reduced to the sounds of a band going through the motions, and while Another Shot might have the hooks, they’re not nearly clinical enough, and end up sounding flaccid. Likewise, A Little Reminder comes on as an unwieldy mass of sound, again, simply not precise or well-shaped enough. For all its face value boisterousness, Weapons often feels very safe, leeching out from the excitement and anger that fuel its singles and falling prey to the law of diminishing returns that must surely follow. It’s on album closer Can’t Get Enough that Weapons finally gets that shot of much-needed depth, and truly thinks things out a bit. Haunting piano lines lace themselves amidst the guitars, adding a bit of real bit of eloquence, even if it is a fluency that trembles with a kind of barely tamed power and claims of tortured suffrage: “I will carry this hate with me!”
At times, you find yourself longing for the more cleanly focused radio refrains of past big-hitters Last Summer and A Town Called Hypocrisy, but it’s a longing born more of nostalgia than any real, mortal deficiency with the record. Weapons is the sound of a group that has had to evolve through virtue of survival, and there’s a distinct veil of separation from the band that once bothered the middle reaches of the UK charts. Here, they’re more worldly-wise, a little frayed at the edges perhaps, though still remarkably youthful sounding; particularly on the flamboyant, near Killers-esque Jesus Walks. That Weapons is a strong album is never in any doubt, but at times it feels like it’s burnt out before it can deliver the burning passion of Bring ‘Em Down and Better Off Dead with equal measure to the rest of the record. When it does flare up at its brightest though, Weapons is exhilarating, a real call to arms from a band that deserves every bit of their continued prevalence.