Using some of the more polished American rock bands as a starting point, Mordecai give hard rock back its grit and dirt on Undaunted.
One of the hardest things for a band to do is to take their music to that mythical ‘Next Level.’ It’s always a question of what they need to do to become what they want. Quite often a band will substitute original ideals and directions, conforming – selling out in extreme cases – and removing the original factors which made the songs special. It’s a very unfortunate pitfall.
It takes an element of stout resolution, determination and belief to get through those moments and still improve and push your music forward.
Mordecai have always threatened to commit to a full length album. The sound of their Choices EP gave us a fairly substantial idea of what was coming, with the tracks Simple Deal and Sober.
Heavily influenced by the American rock sound, it seemed almost perfect then for the band to head to the states to record Undaunted. It could have gone wrong – they could have been swallowed up in the sounds of those around them rather than jumping off from the points that they themselves created. Instead, it allowed them to clarify their sound, remove unnecessary edges and fine point the delivery.
It only takes a few moments to realise that they have got the mix right. Turning Tricks is massive, and all-arena encapsulating. It’s sing-along before you sing-along, memorable by the first pass, getting the multiple hooks in deep; yes there’s Shinedown, even echoes of Black Label Society in front man and guitarist Dan M Hicks’ vocal steps. But it’s so uncluttered and direct that on Red Roses & Black Lies he positions himself in his own space, just enough to establish his own style. On I’ll Never Know the sound is huge, simple, earnest and ultimately totally in keeping with their take on hard rock. Wings must surely be heading for radio – its steady pace lets the song unfold brilliantly, getting to the point in the right time.
With Hicks’ fellow guitarist Andy Short, and a huge rhythm section, Mordecai achieve a massive sound, one that many bands fall short of achieving, and all without sounding over-produced or over-thought. This is the ideal of big rock show songs: strong but not polished to within an inch of their life and substance.
One of the tracks hidden within the album Living Dead possibly proves the most telling of this trait. Just different enough to level some shade on the album, it’s perfectly recorded and shows how to serve a song with creative ideas, slight amendments and effects,with enough adjustments to keep the sound fresh but retain familiarity.
Two of Mordecai’s best tracks have been added to Undaunted. Recorded in between EPs, they find a welcome home here: Lifeline, and possibly their best song White Horse, are hits waiting to happen – and demonstrate that Mordecai can write standalone songs that fit within in the context of an album as well, because they have a unswerving connection to their identity.
It’s no surprise the lead single is Method In Your Madness as it’s a perfect vehicle for what they do best; radio-wave devouring, southern swing, Croydon rock. Knowing what you do best and not following the next fashionable thing is a tough road, but so is flying too close to the proverbial sun and over doing that flawless sound. Mordecai show its a balance that can be be maintained.
If you could place money on the next heir apparent to the breakthrough crown, you really should put it on Mordecai.