6

A beautiful summer's day... Urgh.

It just goes to show that you should never ever come to premature conclusions. The cover of Death Vessel looks like some broken down goth band, or maybe some out of tune acoustic blues thrasher like The Country Teasers or some similar sort of dirty bitch that lurks round the back alleys, picking up syringes with its nose. But no! Artwork, as ever, is done by a company, be they Record, Management, or Design. Music, meanwhile, is from the band! And here, we find Death Vessel, doing a country-come-alt sound that is very hard to wrap up.

'Stay Close' is beautiful and tacky, in a sort of mythical disillusion of the countryside, where everyone gets about on those strange see-saw things on train tracks. The acoustic guitar is clean and the female lead vocals are innocent and summery. Drums patter about. But come the forth track - 'Break the Empress Crown' and something within it feels like a chalkboard being scraped by claws made of polystyrene. Why?

Unlike the bleak imagery, there isn't a cloud that cannot be vanquished with a smile. If it wasn't for the lyrics, then maybe we could all sing this to the lower class pupils at the local primary school?

But with the disgustingly tacky and whiny keys that make their way into the album, the country walk gets a little boring, and you start wishing there was a goat carcass or something to keep you from chewing down your hay and jumping in pats for the heck of it.

It seems that the further we venture, the further the country vibe progresses. What once could have been shunned as a sort of Concretes sound is now most certainly far more grassroots than first calculated. And it may make you feel a little uneasy. It could be too frilly and sunny and hazy, despite whatever the name may first suggest.

With real fillers of tracks, such as 'Snow Don't Fall', the album is full of little barbs that your willingness may get snagged on. There are the occasional melodies that seem to aimlessly wander about in need of direction, leaving you in anticipation and secretly hoping that the song will pick itself up and go somewhere new.

Strangely unappealing, despite doing nothing that is strictly a no-no. Worthy of a travelling soundtrack, but not particularly the headphones.