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Album Review: Bastille - Doom Days


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Bastille's much anticipated third album, Doom Days, is a conceptual project miles apart from their usual work. Set during the course of a night out partying against the backdrop of the apocalypse, the four-piece bring together escapism and existential dread with encompassing precision. 

Album Art 'Doom Days' (2019)

The progression between their previous album, Wild World, and Doom Days may appear stark at first, with this alternative indie group taking to electronic and pop sounds. However, at the close of 2018 Bastille released Other People's Heartache (Pt. IV), a mixtape where they collaborate with other artists ordinarily out of reach due to genre boundaries, such as Craig David and James Arthur. This, combined with the huge success of the singles 'Happier' with Marshmallow and 'Grip' with Seeb, makes it clear that the band is refusing to conform to genre norms, and Doom Days is the epitome of the group bursting out of those restrictive boxes. 

Doom Days opens with 'Quarter Past Midnight', a single that was released over a year ago, but the real tone-setter is the following tune 'Bad Decisions'. This track acts gradually eases you into Bastille's new synth-sound. Its rhythmic variations throughout the verses and chorus create a hook that really is infectious. Frontman, Dan Smith's vocals are exceptional in their crisp, yet distinctly raspy tone, particularly when hitting those high notes. The ambiguous reference to "bad decisions" gives the tune a subtle political undertone, an aspect that made Wild World such a success. 

Passing the halfway point of this 11-song album, 'Nocturnal Creatures' is arguably the most distinct track. While this is another song based upon a catchy hook and beat drop, it has clearly been curated for the benefit of a live audience and the use of acapella at the end of the bridge mirrors a chanting crowd. It's an anthem promoting a sense of community but it lacks a level of subtlety and depth that we have come to associate with Bastille lyrics from the mythology referenced throughout Bad Blood, to the political commentary in Wild World; this song sits much more at surface level. 

The slow ballads ironically give this album energy and forward momentum through their unsettling tones in both '4AM' and 'Those Nights'. Bastille's expertise in these downbeat songs shines through here and they excel at conveying emotion through the layering of sound and effectively utilise moments of silence.

Ending strongly with their recently released single 'Joy' - an upbeat track - Doom Days concludes on an uplifting note. It is a surprise, as the end of a night out is usually the moment when reality sets back in. The fact that Bastille has shaped this into something positive adds a level of optimism and hope for the future of our planet, something that was lacking from the social critique found in Wild World. 

Doom Days is an experimental step away from the band's back catalogue of music, and although at times the lyrics lack subtlety and depth, Bastille has been successful in creating an immersive journey that holds popular appeal. 

Doom Days is out now on Virgin Records. 

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