British band Editors collaborated remotely with electronic producer Blanck Mass to produce Violence, their sixth album and follow-up to self-produced In Dreams. The album retains Editors distinctive dark, grounded in guitar rock sound, but laced with vivid, pop-focused arrangements and imagery. The interactions of Editors dark guitar style with electronic pop sounds support an isolationist turn inward, looking for support and regeneration, but the collaboration is not without some miscues.
A solid theme carries the album fluidly, with strong vocals by Tom Smith and extensively integrated arrangements, but the intensity of the electronic additions too often outweighs the band’s honed style. Leading single “Hallelujah (So Low)” introduces those elements heavily, with the title track following closely and marking the dynamic further with a strong drum beat driving soaring and remorseful vocals. Conversely, opener “Cold” focuses on Editors influences, outwardly both a rendition of U2 while additionally hiding the explorations in collaboration, production, and mixing that define Violence. It’s still a strong opener, with soaring vocals, impulsive guitar, and steady drum machine, offering a visible connection to Editors influences and direction taken by Violence.
The fourth track, “Darkness at the Door”, is an immediate example of the styles competing for visibility on Violence, the track starting strongly with electronic pop synths, followed by guitar intersected and interweaving far better with Smith’s solemn and yearning vocals. The track highlights an occasional reliance by Smith’s vocals on the stylistic cues offered by the production experimentation, and guitar interludes and solo explorations only briefly overpower the dominant new elements. But, the next track “Nothingness”, demonstrates a better mix and communication between Smith’s dynamic vocals and guitar with the electronic elements examined and explored on the album.
Single “Magazine” is the strongest collaboration between the elements on the album, with a solid mix, loud performances and arrangement, and distinctive combination of vocals, guitar, piano, and synths. It was a perfect selection to market the record since it captures Editors’ intent and recording process for Violence. The track best illustrates how the album will play on stage, too, starting from an operatic vocal and expanding to drums, piano, guitar, and loud dominating style, before turning inward to focus on a guitar performance and the best-integrated pop-styled synths on Violence.
“Magazine” is followed by a track that shifts style drastically: “No Sound but the Wind” is largely piano and vocals driven, with sparsely populated atmospheric synths carrying a solid background. Here, though, the album’s themes of isolation shout for recognition and ask for assistance quietly and with effect, but Violence returns to the bombastic qualities of the production collaboration immediately on penultimate track “Counting Spooks”. Editors remarked in promotion for the album that “Counting Spooks” features overall producer Leo Abrahams mixing two songs together. While the mix is strong and features innovative percussive and strings in the track, the link is audible and hard to avoid or forgive. Fortunately, the song is a perfect prelude to the impressive closing track on Violence, “Belong”.
If Violence is equally vivid and articulate in its presentation of isolation, collaboration, and regeneration, then “Belong” best represents the success of those efforts and Editors pursuits with the album. The track builds upon itself successively, from quiet vocals-driven to expansive and multifaceted guitar and percussion domination that ends the album with loud vocals and abrupt-face.
Editors discography is distinctively dark and dynamic in the band’s influences from the post-punk of the 1970s and 1980s, but Violence plays like the band trying to retain those elements while making an unnecessary shift in production. Aspects are striking upon first listen, but lose focus when considered as a whole. Violence sounds too much like Editors sought to remake themselves as part of a worthy collaboration with artist Blanck Mass under leadership by producer Leo Abrahams, with success intermittent and weak spots highlighted inadvertently. The album altogether is enjoyable but risks too much as a method of visualizing its distinction from the band’s preceding albums.