REVIEW - JoanOvArc - 'Invisible Enemy' (Album)
London's JoanOvArc have impressed from way back, with early singles winning 'track of the week' from various magazines, a debut album (2016's 'Ride Of Your Life') being produced by Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Terrorvision etc) and high profile gigs worldwide. Following a second self-titled album released in 2019, the band hit a number of obstacles - line-up changes, and, like the rest of us, lockdown for the best part of two years, during which time the band wrote and recorded 'Invisible Enemy', expertly produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Jason Wilson at Stakeout Studio in London. Released in August, 'Invisible Enemy' is a hard-hitting yet highly melodic and deceptively varied record with slicing guitar riffs (Shelley Walker & Laura Ozholl) and thunderbolt rhythms (Keira Kenworthy - Bass & Ellie Daymond - Drums) topped with some glorious vocal harmonies (Ozholl, Walker & Kenworthy) on twelve tunes that are always engaging and attention-grabbing.
The first five tracks bring riffs aplenty as the tunes veer between a number of influences; the Muse-like touches on great opener 'Silver Sun', the Maidenesque title track, heavier numbers 'Guilty' and 'Mister Mister' dealing with some pretty unsavoury subject matter and '6FD - Six Feet Deep' with its rap-like vocal interludes setting the album up in fine style and showing off the musicianship within JoanOvArc and those great harmonies in a number of places. The album then broadens its reach and moves into wider territory - 'Here I Go' is a gloriously catchy single with great drumming throughout and a fantastic guitar solo, 'Isolation' (like the title track dealing with frustration throughout lockdown) starts with more bruising riffing but finds time for a flanged bass solo and a galloping finish, ''Diosas Verdes' is tinged with 60s psychedelic touches and channels the spirit of those Californian west coast bands such as Jefferson Airplane and 'Day By Day' is a sweet tune complete with cello backing (courtesy of Francesca Cull) and a Cranberries influence in the air. The final three tracks on the album - 'Rain On Mondays', 'Flying Free' and 'Nothing Left To Say' - are slower, more reflective with Francesca's cello very much in evidence. 'Rain On Mondays' is a bluesy ballad with an affecting vocal, 'Flying Free' mixes its strident passages with semi-classical interludes and album closer 'Nothing Left To Say' is another long-ish track full of melancholy as befits the relationship issues subject matter of the song.
'Invisible Enemy' is an album that repays repeated listens and shows what a talented crew that JoanOvArc are with fantastic playing, gifted songwriting and tremendous vocal harmonies. It's a testament to how well the band have come through the difficult lockdown genesis of the album, that what has emerged is a strong, vibrant, belter of a record that will hopefully build on the band's audience. In one form or another, JoanOvArc have been with us for over fifteen years - here's hoping they are with us for many more years with many more releases such as 'Invisible Enemy' to come.
'Invisible Enemy' is out now, available on all the major digital sites and JoanOvArc's Bandcamp page - www.joanovarc.bandcamp.com