This High Wycombe quintet’s 13th studio album sees them plug in again after 2013’s acoustic-dominated The Black Pilgrim, but from the first strains there’s a distinctly folk-flavoured quality to Over The Top.
It opens with the ballad of Sir Thomas And The Passer-By, recounting the tale of a ghost sighting and subsequent witch hunt, before The Wreck Of The Saint Marie hauls us into marginally more recent history with a nautically-based murder ballad. A quartet of Great War-themed compositions follow, peaking with Behind The Lines, sung from the perspective of a soldier shot for cowardice.
Lots to get our teeth into narratively speaking, then. But musically, the latter and its surrounding tracks do fall back on Dire Straits-style soft rock, and some listeners might find themselves yearning for more sonic spice.
Thankfully that materialises in the shape of Johnny V and Fifty, which represent the album’s emotional high watermark, as singer John Dexter Jones shares bittersweet memories of a late, metal-loving friend, aided by some dynamic guitar shapes from Steve Hayes and Ronnie Rundle. All of which reflect a band still full of heart, soul and diverting stories to tell.