Five albums and one EP into their career, Godsticks have successfully carved out a space for themselves that sits somewhere between the energetic swagger of Faith No More, the questing drama of mid-period King Crimson and the dizzying mathcore pyrotechnics of The Dillinger Escape Plan. Yet over the course of 17 years, the Welsh band have transcended their influences, fusing them into a sound that’s their own.
Having settled into the expanded, four-piece line-up that’s been in place since 2017’s Faced With Rage album, their sixth full-length builds on what they were doing with that record and its follow-up, 2020’s Inescapable. Opener If I Don’t Take It All thumps and crawls from a growling synth line to expansive and melodic rock. Singer and guitarist Darran Charles’ earnest, full-hearted delivery suits the material, backed by some fine interplay between drummer Tom Price and bassist Dan Nelson, with Gavin Bushell’s circling, driving guitar providing a spine. They sit at the less flashy end of the prog metal spectrum, favouring a streamlined, song-first approach over showy individual musicianship or bombastic indulgence.
This Is What A Winner Looks Like has plenty of sharp edges, but their adeptness with melody makes it easy to step into the musical world they’ve created. When they ramp things up, as on the chorus of Eliminate And Repair, they do so by avoiding the clichéd quiet-loud dynamic.
But they’re capable of impressive inventiveness too, as evidenced by the appropriately-titled lead single Mayhem, which is built on a startling, stuttering bass-drum pattern that must have left Price’s ankle in need of a well-earned ice-bath. The song itself is a circling, buzzing monster that alternately swoops and soars. It’s immediately followed by Lying, a lesson in contrast that showcases a smoother, less frenetic side to Godsticks’ musical personality. Tellingly, Charles’ versatile voice is equally at home on both types of song, shifting from a whisper to a roar when the moment is necessary. The album closes with the nuanced, floating Wake Up, driven by Price’s stirring, double-time drums.
Godsticks are far too assured to put a foot wrong this far into their career, and so it proves with This Is What A Winner Looks Like. Hitting the sweet spot between musical adventurousness and confident melodicism, it might just be their best album yet. It’s not immediately clear whether that album title is ironic or not – the photo of an oddly regal-looking simian on the cover would suggest it’s the former – but This Is What A Winner Looks Like puts Godsticks squarely on the podium.
This Is What A Winner Looks Like is available to buy or stream