Brandishing their eccentric brand of alt-rock like a sonic weapon loaded with powerful punk, blues, and avant-garde influences, Adelaide’s St. Morris Sinners are releasing their daring sophomore album ‘Zbilanc’ on March 18.
Not for the weak of heart, the St. Morris Sinners are celebrated for their unflinching approach to music, attracting attention with their previous blues-based rock releases including 2016 debut LP ‘Songs About Insects’ as well as their captivatingly wacky live performances.
Now, the quirky four-piece are further embracing their avant-garde tendencies in ‘Zbilanc’, marking an evolution in their sound as they unveil a rhythmically diverse 11-track album that delves headfirst into the concept of imbalance, featuring sonic, lyrical and emotional layers that remain charmingly unpredictable. The band states, “Zbilanc is the Maltese word for ‘imbalance’, which speaks to the heritage of lead singer Stephen Johnson. The concept of the album plays with the theme of imbalance; one side is disjointed, raucous, raw and primal in its delivery, while the other side is heartfelt, sombre and honest in its approach.”
With an introduction that reads more like a warning, ‘Boarding Announcement’ signals the album’s departure as chaotic tribal-inspired instrumentals and a sinister spoken delivery preempt the excitingly eccentric road ahead, with commanding second track ‘Big Rev Kev’ using western reverb-coated electric guitars and deep, powerful vocals to move dramatically between primal outbursts and composed deliveries.
Title-track ‘Zbilanc’ rears up with the shiver-inducing hiss of frontman Stephen Johnson, quickly contrasted by his imposing voice, delivering rousing content between epic guitar riffs and a nu-metal reminiscent level of chaos, anger and unpredictability.
Sweeping in with deep bass guitar grooves, jazzy drums and anecdotal spoken verses arrives ‘Gentrification Blues’, the soulful blues-rock section of the album in full swing with an imploding instrumental breakdown, before transitioning into the swaying ballad of ‘She Swiped Left’, using seductive horns and desolate melodies to convey a modern-day tale of unrequited love during a digital age.
Then, sitting cheekily at the album’s centre is ‘Le Coq Roq Blues’, an upbeat country-blues jam that quivers with the energy of the local pub during peak hour, equipped with line-dancing, friendly faces and a downright good time, until it’s time to acknowledge ‘Elephant in the Gloom’ emerging as a melancholic folk tune that encourages a wistful faraway gaze as heavy electric guitar notes emerge below the surface of grounded acoustic melodies.
‘Organ Grinder’ creeps up slowly with quivering percussion and menacing guitars in anticipation for strong Aussie accented vocals to surface in a stream of consciousness, the song moving freely and without consequence, as it makes its stealthy build to a striking crescendo.
Next, ‘Like Plants Grow’ flourishes as a small hopeful interlude of deceptively sweet piano backing radio-announcer vocals ahead of ‘Dianne’, a guitar-lead song featuring weighty organ notes and sturdy trumpets as Johnson’s vocals search longingly in their desperation.
At the close, we find slow-burning track ‘Epitaph’, a culmination of the album’s instrumental dynamism as it builds with an alt-rock strength, adding epic drums and undeniable electric guitar riffs to steady acoustic guitar melodies while Johnson demonstrates his commanding vocal prowess in its most vulnerable state until eloquent piano chords linger in the air like a bittersweet farewell.
The St. Morris Sinners are no strangers to success, with the HOT PANTS Productions signed band performing nationally and globally, and with a host of bands including King Khan & BBQ Show (Canada), Tex Perkins (Melbourne), Spencer P. Jones (Melbourne), Kim Salmon (Melbourne), The Monkey Wrench (USA) and Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds (USA) and have toured Australia numerous times to growing crowds.