Dark, adventurous and risky, The Getaway Plan are baring their collective soul for all.
With three solid studio albums (and some equally consistent EPs) in the back catalogue, a break up, a reunion and a few line-up changes, the history of The Getaway Plan reads like that of seasoned veterans. A dark, brooding collection of songs, new album ‘Dark Horses’, this time, sees the band exploring a more expansive musical direction - at times pleasing the listeners and at other times, testing their patience.
Opening cut ‘Landscapes’ sets the tone for the record to come, with a big, slow, thundering chorus, accompanied by a murky ocean of guitars and omnipresent bass tones. New bassist Mike Maio is featured heavily on the mix throughout, the band generously thrusting his four stringed tones to the front of the sound. Personal favourite ‘Castles in the Air’ allows Mike and other recent addition (and brother) Dan Maio to exercise their respective and full potential to groove, providing the perfect accompaniment to an infectious slice of pop. However, as ‘Castles...’ wears on, the full intention of ‘Dark Horses’ is made clear, with percussive additions and darkly chaotic synths adding to the deeply layered soundscape.
The release sees a more mature band from the pop alternative hybrid days of ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms' and certainly the screamo, Underoath loving period of the band's demo era ('Ashes', anyone?!). Each song is composed to be appreciated in its entirety, in contrast to the hook-laden heart throbs of the noughties. The album's title track sees vocalist Matthew Wright dynamically exploring the ideas of life after death, crooning, “In the night I see Dark Horses come alive// now let’s ride into the next life.” Wright explores his range throughout the course of the record. 'F(r)iend' displays Wright's talent for softer verses, as well as the power he poses for the big anthemic choruses, of which 'F(r)iend' possess a monolith.
Moreover, album heavyweight 'Battleships' sounds like the product of the band's time on the road with Anberlin last year. Guitarist Clint Ellis is given free rein to unleash huge walls of sound, the heavy power chords combining with the booming rhythm section to create a vast and, at times, overwhelming canvass of music. Slow choruses are the order of the day for ‘Dark Horses’, with most songs keeping a steady half time stomp. However, occasionally the record will offer a curveball to keep the audience awake. Cue ‘Last Words’, a smooth, groovy track that sits on an exotic six/four groove. 'Baby Bird/Effigy' travels the opposite direction, with an ethereal, Porcupine Tree-esque acoustic opening giving way to a swaying, atmospheric adventure. Dan Maio uses his grooves to add colour to the already sizeable pallet offered by the band, further expanded by the addition of strings and synths to the texture.
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Despite these musical adventures, ‘Dark Horses’ is simply too long. With not a single song clocking under four minutes, the album takes time to listen to back to back, with the listener having to revisit each tune constantly in order to get a gauge of what is happening. 'Exodus' and the aforementioned 'Baby Bird/Effigy' clock in at seven minutes each, while the prog-rock epic 'Dreamer/Parallels' comes through at a whopping nine minutes. The taste which the band have developed for experimentation, along with the song lengths, result in a record that is hard to digest. 'Dreamer/Parallels' shifts dramatically from a slow piano ballad to a folky prog infused shuffle, not out of place on a Tool record (yes, a bold call). 'Exodus' meanwhile takes three minutes to really get off the ground, before twisting and turning in its melodic lines, not allowing the listener to settle.
‘Dark Horses’ is not an album for the sentimental. It is a band finding a new voice, exploring their identity and finding a new, albeit several different voices. It is long, dark and complicated. However, it is not boring and, after a few listens, will provide the open minded with some memorable musical moments from one of Australia’s most hard working bands.
'Dark Horses' will alienate some listeners. Yet despite the setbacks, it showcases a band that is willing to take risks and allow the songs in their hearts to go onto the record untarnished.