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Modestep “Evolution Theory” – Album Review

A&M Records (2013)

Hoping to take dubstep to the same metal masses as the now defunct Pendulum did with drum ‘n’ bass, London quartet Modestep make Skrillex appear like a shrinking violet on their adrenaline-charged debut album, Evolution Theory.

Any concept of subtlety may have been thrown out of the window, but packed to the rafters with gargantuan bass wobbles, splurging synths and brutal industrial beats, this record’s fifteen tracks are indeed just as likely to be embraced by the Kerrang! audience as Mixmag’s.

As the often over-wrought and fist-clenching frontman Josh Friend admits on Evolution Theory’s most anthemic hook-laden track, “Feel Good,” Modestep’s relentlessness won’t be to everyone’s taste.

“Praying For Silence” is a crass attempt to address the issues of the 2011 London riots that even a Politics For Dummies guide would vilify for being too simplistic. “Leave My Mind” sounds like it’s been lifted wholesale from the soundtrack to an early 90s console boss level. Meanwhile, the boastful claims of “I can feel the bass and it’s making my nose bleed” on the dubstep-by-numbers of “Bite The Hand” feel like a desperate attempt to court the fratboy crowd.

But occasionally, the stadium-sized affair does at least attempt to live up to the genre progression claims of its title. Featuring a handful of emerging MCs, the title track delivers a crash course in the sounds of the London underground over a surprisingly melancholic and disjointed grimy production. The live-sounding “Time” eschews the usual hair metal and rap-rock references for an array of swampy riffs that are more 70s Led Zeppelin than 00s Linkin Park. There are also flashes of disco-funk on the emphatic “Sunlight,” acoustic soul on the Chase and Status-esque “To The Stars” and even neo-classical on the cinematic closer “Saved The World.”

Featuring several singles that were released as early as 2011, Evolution Theory would no doubt have sounded more revolutionary had it arrived on the scene two years ago. Instead, despite the odd sparks of creativity, it’s a largely tired-sounding record which suggests Modestep might have missed the boat.

2.5 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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