It was only recently that I started listening to She Makes War. Regularly I would see her posts on Twitter and always think “yeah, I should have a listen one day.” Every time that thought crossed my mind, I was doing something and whenever I listen to a new band/artist, I want to give them my undivided attention. That elusive “one day” did finally come, and I went over to She Makes War’s Bandcamp where at the time “Drown Me Out” from Direction of Travel was streaming, so that was the first encounter I had with She Makes War. I was impressed pretty much right away, but I had to listen to more. For all I knew “Drown Me Out” could be the only song I end up liking. Off I went to listen to Disarm: 15, Disarm and Little Battles in turn. So was the just a Summer fling? It had to be more. I think I was ready to go to steady with the music of She Makes War.
Making a commitment such as this with music is never something to take lightly. Was I really ready to jump all in? Put everything on the line? I thought I should wait until I hear Direction of Travel first. After all, my time with She Makes War had only been short. The relationship with the music still fresh. Still in that honeymoon phase, I had to be rational. I had to think with my head, not my heart. So when I saw the stream for Direction of Travel in my inbox, my palms started to sweat. I was anxious. Nervous. What if once I clicked the link everything changed? What if it was over? Could I really handle that? There was no other option but to click the link, and let fate decide.
As if She Makes War knew about my inner turmoil, Direction of Travel opens with the safe “Drown Me Out.” The opening track, and first single, off the new record is safe for fans of She Makes War’s previous work. Staying true to She Makes War form, the gloom-pop, ’90s alt-rock sound is alive and well. *Deep breath* so far so good. Always one to try new things, build on from what she has created before, She Makes War eases you into some new sounds, before dropping the curtain, screaming “to hell with it” and just cutting loose.
“Cold Shoulder” amps things up with a solid rock vibe complete with meaty guitars, some really groovy drum beats and a bit of tongue-in-cheek lyrical content. Despite being only two songs in, I now know that I had nothing to worry about. The music of She Makes War and I were just meant to be. It’s at the third track – “In Cold Blood” – where things really start to get interesting, and all those nerves and anxieties simply dissipate. She Makes War dives head first into the dark side with “In Cold Blood” as the track opens with that token horror movie violin screech. Laura’s a.k.a She Makes War vocals take on a sinister touch, as the rough guitars and the slower ominous drums take you to a world unexpected after “Cold Shoulder.”
At this point in the record, Nicole Robson, Simon Goff and The McCarricks’ mastery of violin and cello really shine. Such instruments are quite versatile, and I feel can capture the mood of a song better than any other. The malevolent use within “In Cold Blood” creates a sense of fear, while the soft touch they add to “Paper Thin” and “Please Don’t” will give you emotional goosebumps. The use of the strings is then taken one step further, being used as the foundation to the ’80s New Wave/Synth Pop sound of “5000 Miles.”
Direction of Travel comes straight from the heart and is an interesting record from beginning to end. What could have been nothing but a Summer fling, has well and truly blossomed into a long term relationship with the music of She Makes War. Direction of Travel will surely have even the biggest commitaphobe ready to take that big step.