The Virginmarys: King Of Conflict

Slash-approved Brits fulfil their promise on a cracking debut album.

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It’s finally here. Seven years, various EPs, one mini-album and an eye-watering touring schedule was all it took to induce the proverbial birth of this premiere delivery. Actually, in Macclesfield trio The Vininmarys’ case it’s paid off massively.

King Of Conflict is a class record; the sound of a band who’ve played venues great and crap, grafted their way up the scale and created a thoroughly well-oiled music-making machine, cutting their grown-up teeth supporting Slash, Eagles Of Death Metal and others. And all the while they’ve retained an urgency and impact that can only really be generated live.

No surprise, then, that this album was recorded live in the studio. And as the no-nonsense rock’n’roll pulse of opener Dead Man’s Shoes sprawls into a grungy chorus brawl, you know you’re on to something good. One-dimensional, ‘balls-out’ rock, this is not. Nor is it ode-to-Bisto, down-t’-pub poetry. Yes, arguably there’s a hint of Arctic Monkeys and the like in the audibly Northern wordsmithery and angst of tracks like Just A Ride. But that’s where similarities end.

King Of Conflict is far more about broader themes (encompassing commendably ‘thinking’, albeit likely, suspects like anti-capitalism, drugs, violence), and the freeness, unabashed conviction and infinitely superior riffery set them comfortably apart. Yes, they do pain ’n’ politics very eloquently, but it’s man rock, no question – like drinking a glass of Chateau Lafite with a Yorkie bar.

Led Zeppelin comparisons have been made. But any classic rock ‘legend’ parallels are to be drawn, then Virginmarys have more in common with The Who. Daltrey-esque cries of ‘baby treat my body like a canvas!’ ring triumphant and spunky in Portrait Of Red, a surprisingly poetic look at domestic violence from a male victim’s perspective. Things get more beautiful on Running For My Life, a superb journey from pensive chord progression, through tempo/mood change, magnificent hook and vitriolic screams.

But don’t forget that Virginmarys are essentially a youthful bunch, bringing the associated vigour, frustration and fight to the music. Bang Bang Bang is sure to incite fist-pumping and ‘Hell yeah!’s. And in Lost Weekend they have a Biffy-meets-Mudhoney ‘grunge power ballad’ – teenage heartbreak in pretty melodies, guttural, worldly anguish in Ally Dickaty’s vocals. Tight as the proverbial drum, hard as hard gets, yet rich in colour – yeah, that’s the stuff.

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.