Broken Links


It’s been some six long years since Eastleigh’s finest were in our collective minds with album number two “Divide/Restore”. After pooling huge financial resources and flogging themselves musically and seemingly going nowhere fast, they hit a brick wall and went on permanent hiatus. Whatever has happened in those six years their spirit and determination has clearly never faltered as they embark on their self-funded and promoted (difficult) third album. Keeping with the DIY ethic that has befallen many a band during Lockdown, they have conspired to create this mesmerising and experimental body of work. With Indie/Rock seemingly a lost art in the current swell of Post/Punk and Indie/Electro, it’s refreshing to hear a band sticking to their roots and remaining true to themselves. With an unchanged line-up Broken Links have conspired to create this superb third album, offering a monolithic twelve slabs of experimentalism that shows how far they have come.

“The Day called X” announces itself with an air raid siren before ushering in a powerful, snare-heavy intro that sets the tone for Mark’s vocal layering. The searing guitars then soar over the top. The key line in the chorus “this is not the end” seems somewhat poignant for a band who have been away for a while. The bass (Lewis) thunders throughout but Phil’s pounding drums are the star turn here. The familiar “Electro” loops of an Industrial nature appear during a brief bridge, but this stellar opener just keeps ascending through to its conclusion. If this song is a statement of intent, then that intent would read “we are Broken Links and we’re back!”

“Replicas” follows with a brooding bass and an altogether darker sound. A winding guitar is omnipresent before exploding into life powerfully, with more vocal layering. Mark’s more familiar tones have not suffered from time away from a mic, far from it. Hints of Muse at their most experimental come to mind, but the similarities end there. Another chiming bridge, replete with clever keys allows the song to drop then plateau once more. “Pioneers” sees another pounding intro on what is the most radio-friendly cut so far. With a notably clean and polished sounding vocal it avoids the layering of elsewhere on the album. However, it explodes into life one minute in; without becoming indecipherable. Heavy bass-thumping matches searing guitars and a pounding drumbeat, where a brief respite is taken before upping the ante through to the big finale.

Broken Links

“Antibiotics” begins like all great Indie/Rock Goth/Rock crossover songs with a jagged guitar part, chunky bass and subtle snare-tapping. Multi-layered and the classic slow-building, brooding dark number that it is. Happy Days-era Catherine Wheel comes to mind amid more chord strains in the bridge and some interesting keys work. There’s even a smattering of noodling that doesn’t last; while the power returns with Lewis’s bass becoming heavier, twinned with Mark’s jangly guitar and a smouldering finish. “Cold War” – after three listens one band kept coming to mind: Marilyn Manson (excluding the vocal). It has all the hallmarks (to my ear) of this once great band, with its scratchy yet precise keys that permeate the song from the outset. It’s a “builder”, layer upon layer. The bridge takes the looping keys and makes them the star; while Mark’s subtle vocal returns, upping the range through to conclusion. Another fadeout ending but I can’t decide if the song is still in the experimental stages or a work of pure genius – you the listener must decide?

“Eras” starts with another searing keys section yet less direct. However, just when you least expect; it gently builds that wall of sound, encasing every possible instrument and sound they possess. A shimmering background loop arrows away throughout; while the thudding bass grabs your attention against a backdrop of solid hitting, chord strains and vocal layers. The bridge is a noodle-fest but Lewis’s brooding bass just bludgeons the listener through to conclusion with a powerful onslaught, before the wispy looped fadeout. On ‘Monolith’ bass subtleties resume in the background behind a clever, clicky chord structure that simply builds and builds. Jumbled lyrics midpoint only cease to leave one yearning for more. I’m briefly reminded of Indie starlets My Vitriol, before that frenetic wall of sound returns through to the finish.

More Manson-esque keys in the powerful intro to “Fatalism”; where a strong, over-bearing vocal matches the Electro guitars as they shimmer and dazzle at various intervals throughout. The thumping drums hold the main beat while a subtle bridge allows breathing space before the song gently builds once more. “TTO” with its heavy bass drum intro pairs with chiming guitar notes, amid the now-familiar multi-layered and electronic sound which moves to the forefront. Clear, precise vocalising only ever rises to make itself known – layer upon layer. Haunting and gravelly with an underlying menace, the dual vocals up the tempo. Latterly there’s an Industrial feel to the song, (think Sci-Fi movies) with an overriding soundtrack element.

Staying in the same ballpark “Zealots” entices one in with a mesmerising keyboard loop that is simply so infectious. The vocal reminds me of David Gahan (Depeche Mode) at his darkest – almost spoken word it paints a picture of darkened rooms, horror movies and all kinds of weird and wonderful creepiness. The rasping guitars are paired with an unapologetically dark dual vocal. “Year X1” returns to familiar territory – chord clicks invite a softer measured lead vocal with an infectious chiming chord structure in the background before quite literally exploding into life. “We’re Losing Time, the Best Time of our Life” – if ever there was a lyric that would resonate with so many right now it’s this one! A subtle bridge allows the song to reawaken with a clever loop that hints at mid-80’s Goth. The sound of a throbbing “Batcave” (Google it), sweat running down the walls! The escalating wall of sound comes to a brilliantly abrupt conclusion.

On album closer “Disconnect” there are more echoes of David Gahan. The underlying beat is the backdrop to a soft, gentle vocal that elevates only briefly in places. The lyrics may just be autobiographical but it’s a plea rather than a realisation. A song of two halves that just builds and builds – shuddering riffs almost drown the gentle snare-tapping. The now “pleading” vocal is straining for recognition, the final echoey departure is the perfect conclusion.

I often wonder when a band seem to disappear off the radar, have they gone for good or are they just on hiatus? On the strength of this collection, Broken Links have used their time well. Exploring new avenue’s within their sound they have put together the difficult third album with what sounds like consummate ease. As with their previous output there are obvious influences one could pick out, but in a small underground genre you need to stand out. Hopefully, they continue to put in the hard yards (once we are through Lockdown) and take these fine songs to a whole new audience. With experimentalism at the forefront then there is scope to continue exploring their sound further. I wish them well.

Track-Listing
The Day Called X
Replicas
Pioneers 03:30
Antibiotics
Cold War
Eras
Monolith
Fatalism
T.T.O.
Zealots
Year XI
Disconnect

Order The Album here.

Broken Links are:
Mark Lawrence (Vocals/Guitars)
Lewis Betteridge (Bass)
Phil Boulter (Drums)

Links
http://www.brokenlinksmusic.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/BrokenLinks
https://brokenlinks.bandcamp.com

Words by Ross A Ferrone.

Broken Links

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