On their previous album, The Besnard Lakes were the dark horse, and now they are the roaring night. The shapeshifting comes only in name, though, as the band could have just as easily named their new album The Besnard Lakes Are the Most Consistent Rock Band On Earth. If you’re familiar with Are the Dark Horse, you might do a double take when listening to Are the Roaring Night, because at first blush it sounds exactly the same – the same production values, the same bombastic delivery, the same sweet harmonies. It’s really quite an achievement, and since the band has such a great esthetic in the first place, it is welcome. It’s analogous to van Gogh painting Starry Night the same way twice two years apart. Never has it been easier to say, “If you liked the last one, you’ll like this one.”
Filled with sublime vocal lines, swelling harmonies, stringed accents, straightforward rhythms, and monster-sized rocking, this is The Besnard Lakes doing what it does best. However, repeated listening does expose some subtle differences. “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent” introduces the album with an underlying quivering sound and some squelching discordance, before rising into a defiant wall of sound. “Chicago Train” shows the gentlest side of the band, with strings and omnichord laying a bed for Jace Lacek’s falsetto lullaby. Flute colors the nourish verses of “Land of the Living Skies Pt. 2: The Living Skies” while a mellotron plays through the second half of the song, providing depth through texture. “And This is What We Call Progress” pounds forward with muscular drums and a slinky, almost sleazy riff, not covering much ground but raising the tempo and tension of the album to an exhilarating level. Overall, Are the Roaring Night works just as well as one piece as it does a collection of discrete songs. A ten track album sequenced as two sides, with short introductory ambient noise pieces in slots one and six, the tracks drone on long and stand tall together, creating a monolithic listening experience which feels both constantly building and already there.
Like the last album, this one is difficult to clearly grasp, though there’s no mistaking what feelings are intended. The sound is assertive and assured, balancing redemption and dyphoria, tenseness and introspection. When the lyrics pop out, we hear of “troops with dark horses” and “millions of men on one knee, all for you” beside declarations like “the noose around my neck, take it off” and “Will you ever learn not to laugh so loud?” These songs are fueled by disgust with the way things have been and continue to be, with wars and destruction tearing apart the landscape, sometimes feeling like a musical call to revolution that mirrors the album title. The Besnard Lakes play with an inspiration that seems self-evident while avoiding the need to beat you over the head with too many specifics. Their music embodies struggle in form and function, channeling moral outrage into undeniable power and rapturous beauty.