Album Review | EBM Is Possibly Editors Best Record Yet
Editors are no strangers to reinvention.
Having initially burst onto the scene during the mid-00s wave of indie rock with their highly acclaimed and much-loved debut The Back Room, the Birmingham outfit didn’t take long to expand their sonic horizons. Quickly shaking off the “Wannabe-Interpol” tag they were unfairly branded with in the beginning, by the time they reached third album In This Light and On This Evening the band were almost unrecognisable from their early iteration. They even soon became a bigger attraction in Central Europe than they were in the UK, having successfully integrated more electronic influences into their sound. Then after the departure of their original guitarist Chris Urbanowicz back in 2012, they continued to evolve from album to album, with their most recent outing (2018’s Violence) marking one of their strongest and most well-rounded efforts to date.
Despite making a career out of these sonic-shifts, EBM feels like a big and bold step into the unknown unlike any they’ve taken previously. The main catalyst for this has been the addition of Benjamin John Power into the fold, better known by his alias of Blanck Mass. The Ivor Novello-winning composer first worked with Editors on 2019’s Blanck Mass Sessions, which was essentially a reimagined and reworked version of their sixth album Violence. Once the pandemic struck, Benjamin and the band continued swapping ideas, eventually forging the colossal blend of synth-pop, alt-rock and spiraling electronica that makes up their new album, the cleverly titled EBM.
Also co-produced by Blanck Mass, who has since been announced as a full-time member of the band going forward, the result is an astonishing first chapter for this new iteration of Editors. On EBM, the band sound more vibrant, energized and wildly ambitious than ever before, adding colourful new layers to their traditionally sombre, brooding sound. The creative partnership between them really feels like a match made in heaven, with Benjamin able to pull the band into fascinating new dimensions sonically as they lyrically tackle broken Britain, strained relationships and indeed the global pandemic.
The album opens with glorious lead single ‘Heart Attack’, which starts out sounding like a car engine steadily revving up. It doesn’t take long to kick into gear as the industrial electronics and chainsaw-like riffs swirl around the immediate refrain of “No-one will love you more than I do.” It’s the perfect introduction to the record, a song that puts the direction change front and centre but also at its core remains quintessentially Editors. The final minute is wonderfully transcendent too, with the guitars drawing some welcome shades to Music Complete-era New Order.
‘Picturesque’ is then equally pulsating, a full throttle rumble of distorted vocals, heavy synths and an escalating, regimented chorus. Anthemic recent single ‘Karma Climb’ then leads into ‘Kiss’, the near eight-minute-long album centrepiece. It’s a shimmering, euphoric, disco-infused splendor that simply shines around frontman Tom Smith’s soaring falsetto. That said, it does also spotlight one minor criticism of the record on the whole, and that is that the tracks can be overly meandering at times, as after a few plays ‘Kiss’ slightly overstays its welcome towards the end.
After a relentless first-half, ‘Silence’ is a welcome mid-album reprieve that brings the tempo down for just a moment. Out of all the songs here, this one also feels most like vintage Editors, with its haunting atmospherics and reverberating guitars that eventually end on the pensive, beautifully written note of “When my body aches, give me uncomplicated conversation.” ‘Strawberry Lemonade’ is then my early favourite of the previously unreleased tracks, powered along by an instantly gratifying central guitar riff, some pounding drums and mind-melting electronics. Safe to say, it is an entrancing barrage of vivid sounds and plenty of sonic wonder.
After ‘Vibe’ then delivers the album’s most pure pop moment and ‘Educate’ mesmerizes through its contrast of bleak, disillusioned lyrics with some light, glistening instrumentation, ‘Strange Intimacy’ arrives to bring the album to an emphatic finish. With some grand piano, sharp stabbing industrial guitars and a metaphorical hellfire of whirring synths, Editors successfully channel their inner-Rammstein for this brilliantly dark and dramatic closing act.
Overall, EBM marks the start of a thrilling new era for Editors, with Blanck Mass helping them to forge a dazzling electronic epic that also lays down some exciting building blocks for future releases. Now twenty years into their career, it’s refreshing to see the band continue to be daring, trying these new ideas and still not putting a foot wrong.
Everyone will have their own favourite Editors record, but this one already feels right up there with their best.