“Ants From Up There” avoids the sophomore slump

After an incredible debut album with “For the First Time,” British Post-Punk outfit Black Country, New Road exploded in popularity, with a US and UK tour scheduled for 2022, and their follow-up Sophomore album announced to release Feb. 4th.

Preceding the release of their forthcoming album, the group posted an announcement on their Instagram page announcing lead vocalist Isaac Wood would depart the band after the release of “Ants From Up There,” and that the tours would be canceled.

In this sense, “Ants From Up There” is an elegy for Wood’s signature vocals that dominated much of the group’s work. But it is a glorious send-off for one of the most interesting vocalists in recent times.

“Ants from Up There” is essentially everything their debut was but even grander, varying from the maximalist violin-driven tracks, to quiet stripped-back guitar-driven ballads. It’s a beautiful piece of art that manages to surpass the already excellent “For the First Time.”

The first single released and the second track of the album, “Chaos Space Marine” is an incredible way to begin the album. The song is driven by a constant riff and string accompaniment as Isaac emboides the titular Chaos Space Marine and his use of Warhammer 40K as escapism in the face of his failing relationship.

The upbeat progressive instrumentals contrast the cryptic and depressing lyrics that dominate the track.

While Isaac may be the lead vocalist, the other members are just as essential to the madness that is BC,NR. The way  the group manages to throw together saxophones, violins, piano and horns while seamlessly blending with Isaac’s unique vocals is a sight to behold.

“Concorde” follows “Chaos Space Marine” and features the prominent imagery of airplanes that dominate much of the album, with a toy airplane in a plastic bag being the album’s cover.

The song itself starts with a rather slow and chill first half which builds into an explosive second half. It evokes the imagery of a plane taking off, which fits with the constant references across the album.

The lyricism on “Concorde” is some of the hardest-hitting material the band has written, with the lines “I was breathless upon every mountain, just to look for your light,” being the most succinct description of Isaac’s obsession over his former lover across the entire album.

“Good Will Hunting” is a standout track, with Isaac’s somber wavering voice permeated the entire track as if he were representing the anxiety anguishing over an old flame while catchy shifting melodies play throughout the track.

The lyrical usage  of contemporary pop culture references, such as “She has Billie Eilish style,” gives the illusion  the song is a conversation Wood had about the lover he so desperately desires but knows he can’t have.

“The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” is another highlight, featuring an ethereal piano instrumental in the background with soft trilling flutes in the background while Wood sings about his codependency issues with his partner represented by  an incredibly elaborate metaphor for cooking food.

The piano-driven accompaniment is beautiful and Wood’s buttery smooth delivery across the track breathes a lot of life into it.

The final track, “Basketball Shoes,” played at live shows for years before its official studio release. It has undergone multiple revisions of its lyrical content, with the original version directly referencing artist Charli XCX, which is changed to an entirely separate person in the final version.

The studio version is still a glorious 12-minute track of epic saxophone lines and horns playing while Isaac reckons with the toll his relationship has taken on him,with three separate parts broken up by different instrumental sections that dominate the track.

The album ends climactically with  intense guitar riffs and saxophone blaring while Wood screams emotionally about a wet dream he had about someone named Charlie. It’s intimate, emotional and grandiose all at the same time.

“Ants From Up There” is quite the send-off to Isaac Wood and it’s hard to Imagine where the band will go without their signature vocalist and songwriter. But regardless of what the future holds, “Ants From Up There” is one of the standout albums of 2022 and it’s only two months into the year.