When you release a fourteen-song follow-up to an album you released barely six months previously you’re either 1) beyond prolific, or 2) blessed with too much time on your hands. When the music involved possesses the quirkiness and diversity of German quintet Black Space Riders, it becomes an even more staggering achievement.
Amoretum Vol. 2 (Black Space Records) commences with two tunes that, by the band’s standards, seem a touch uninspired. ‘Before My Eyes’ and ‘LoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLove!’ are both driven by growling riffs, a plunking bass, blustering rhythms and a punk sensibility, but the vocals are strained and limited. The real progression begins with ‘Walls Away’: a brooding, melodic piece full of meaning and ghosted with piano and psychedelic swirls, whilst the ensuing ‘Slainté’ is all picked acoustic rhythm until monstrous drums kick in a Gaelic pogo, a lead riff conducting the party vibe alongside the toast making chants.
It’s very easy for music like this to become trite and lose its edge, but the nuancing and resonant power, along with those perfectly wielded axes, show an element of creative freedom which makes it joyous. ‘Assimilating Love’ is a Hardcore bruiser that shows the band can display its harsher side well, whilst demonstrating the ability to follow one style with another with apparently effortless continuity. ‘In Our Garden’ is beautifully constructed nineties prog-pop balladry, so simple and gentle whilst possessing a Belle and Sebastian-style melancholic jangle.
‘Leaves of Life’, arguably the standout track, is everything the band is about: blending Joy Division with Depeche Mode in an irresistibly dark eighties amalgam, a grinding bedrock dropping to a wistful meander with bongos replacing the crushing percussion. Despite such dated influences the overall sound remains fresh and versatile: the album closes with thirteen-minute epic ‘The Wait is Never Over’, a dub-reggae rhythm tempered by a warm, clubbing bassline, initially reminiscent of Midnight Oil. When the power erupts it’s magnificent, traveling at the speed of a rampaging bull and sandwiching a mid-section of euphoric leadplay. It’s a simple track, full of hammer, and a great end to an album full of imagination, nostalgia, force, and grace.