Action Camp’s Maura Jacob and Bengt Alexsander tantalisingly describe their new album as “doom pop”, with their material inspired by man-made disasters. There is certainly a dark or gothic element to Action Camp’s music too, even if the pop element is not always so easy to locate.
We are often told that first impressions count and the Pittsburgh band understand this, immediately grabbing your attention with ‘You Don’t Even Know My Name’. This part gothic-rock, part early Portishead number, reveals a mastery of darkly escalating noise, given further punch by Jacob’s strident rock vocal. What happens after is never a disappointment but the duo – initially at least – seem to be reaching to match the vitality of the duo’s barnstorming opener. ‘Faded Fable’ flits between aggression and ambient pop whilst ‘Come Clean’ and its sophisticated soul is pleasant enough but when the song has finished you’d be hard-pushed to remember it.
Gradually the duo recover their momentum.’Hunger’ uses a church organ sound to raise the levels of drama, with Jacob fighting hard to be heard and succeeding. On this track and the following ‘Turn Of The Blade’, they seem seem to approaching Evanescence territory but without the annoying rapping bits. Adding further contrast, ‘No Time’ is a refreshingly cracked-up lullaby to break up the electronica. Eventually, on the stomping, glitchy electronica of ‘The Poison + The Cure’ or the grinding Depeche Mode-esque ‘Prayer Of Smoke’ that doom pop tag seems highly appropriate. Kudos too for Bengt Alexsander’s ambient horror arrangements for the final two tracks.
At first, ‘PA’ is like listening to a new band struggling to work out what they excel at but towards the second half of the album they begin to find their feet. It is here that Jacob and Alexsander prove they are a dynamic duo who are able to build tension and melodrama within their confident and complex productions.
Evanescence, Depeche Mode, Portishead, The Artificial Sea