If you’re going to return after a long stint away – as might be the case with a reconciled relationship – yours is an obligation to demonstrate change, while also retaining the essence of what made love happen in the first place. After an eight-year hiatus, back into our lives stride Embrace, who seem to have mastered the art of winning back hearts.
The opening bars of Protection is an attention-grabber, its industrial electronics sounding like a science-fiction Depeche Mode remixed by New Order. From there, the album becomes a cathedral of Heaven-bound choruses and soulful laments. Lead single Refugees reconciles like a prodigal-son version of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy, with an ethereal chorus that transcends dimensions, while current single Follow You Home sees the McNamara brothers harmonising over an implacable melody that monopolises your heartbeat. The visceral ballad At Once forms a tide that rushes in and breaks on the shores of an undulating melody, after which, the tsunami of Self Attack Mechanism crashes in with devastating effect, obliterating many preconceptions of what Embrace as a band really are.
Anchored by two of their best songs, The Devil Looks After His Own, with its lyrics “The winner of the rat race is still a rat”, is a relentless attack on the parameters of choruses, while the organ-laced panorama of Thief On My Island makes a dramatic exit that resonates so vividly you have no choice but to return to the beginning and relive the journey.
Embrace are back, and their music is reaching out with open arms – an absence that has absolutely made the heart grow fonder. Scintillating; spellbinding; a masterpiece. Time, as the tally-mark emblem of the album indicates, has been the ultimate sculptor.
The truly great has come out.
*This article is published in BrumNotes magazine in the UK and Filter magazine in the US