The Jezabels – Dark Storm

Over the past couple of years, The Jezabels have been slowly conquering Australia gig by gig, EP by EP. They are the sort of band that can make someone completely unaware of them a raving fan in less than half an hour, and for months I’ve been telling people that they are the best Australian band that no one has ever heard of.

That will change, of course. Happily, very few bands this good remain unknown for too long. And, of course, they aren’t really unknown. They are an FBI and Triple J favourite, Disco Biscuit Love and Hurt Me were both iTunes singles of the week, and they have played so many shows, both headlining and supporting, that surely anyone with their ear anywhere even remotely near the ground is probably in love with them already.

If they compiled the ten strongest tracks from their three EPs they would have released one of the best albums in many years, and Dark Storm certainly continues this tradition of excellence. As with the other EPs Dark Storm is only five tracks, and clocks in under 24 minutes, leaving you ravenous for more.

The only band I can really compare The Jezabels to is The National. The comparison isn’t so much a thematic one as it is sonic, as both bands have an incredible ability to construct these all-enveloping walls of sound, rich with texture and extraordinary beauty. Similarly, both bands have tremendous drummers who, far from being a breathing metronome, endow the songs with energy and atmosphere, and both allow the other instruments to showcase themselves. By establishing the background of a song with so much texture and depth they allow the other instruments to add intricate structures and deft touches, confident in the knowledge that they don’t have to carry the more fundamental aspects of the track.

The title track kicks things off, and instantly we know we’re in classic Jezabels territory. Sam Lockwood’s guitars establish a tense, taught atmosphere, setting the stage for Hayley Mary’s terrific voice. Then Nik Kaloper’s drums kick in, and I fall in love all over again. Kaloper is tremendously busy behind the kit, but he never overplays anything – instead, every tap on the rims, every crash of the cymbals seems calculated and controlled. And throughout, Heather Shannon’s keyboard work is like a sniper, darting in only very occasionally to fill those passages that are in need of an extra chord or two. But the song really comes in to its own with barely a minute left – having almost completely died down it reawakens, propelled furiously by Kaloper’s drumming. It’s a bravura performance from the entire band, clearly signalling that they are becoming more and more comfortable with their craft.

I could go on to deconstruct each of the five tracks in this way, but I think all that would happen is I would run out of superlatives. Let me simply say that there is not a dud song here. In fact, there isn’t one song that falls anything sort of terrific.