It’s without doubt that Ward XVI have become the new royalty of shock rock and their stunning ‘Metamorphosis’ album was a huge highlight of the year. As the last embers of a difficult 2020 slowly cool, there’s just one more missive sent out from their permanently lockdowned minds as they share this five-track acoustic EP with the world from their thick, maximum security walls.
Ward XVI – Unplugged and Sedated
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Plucking four songs from the album and adding a mystery bonus too, this adds another deliciously unsettling layer to the story as they twist and breath jagged life into their already troubled tale of madness and murder. The stripped bare arrangements really suit the desolation and fractured mind of Psychoberrie as we trace the paths of her unravelling in a very intimate way, accompanied, as ever, by the guitar of Dr Von Stottenstein.
Whilst the album is a carnival riot of colours of sounds, here you can hear the songs truly breathe and shine in their deliciously off kilter way, the emotions laid bare and all the studio gloss removed. From the truly epic ‘Cradle Song’ and through to the Eastern Mysticism vibe of ‘Burn the Witch’ onwards, this is a glorious way to hear the tracks in a new, fresh setting and the writing stands the transition with triumph.
Menace permeates throughout and the treatment of ‘Daisy Chains’ as a slow blues really pinpoints the darkness and despair at the centre of the events that led to the birth of the character. Similarly, ‘Shadows’ is haunting and disturbing as we voyeuristically view someone losing their mind from the inside of their head, flashes of lucidity mixing with melancholy. The bonus track will remain a mystery for now, only to be revealed to those who purchase the EP.
Whilst this may all sound hard going, after what has been a mentally and emotionally taxing few months for everyone, it is just entertainment and damn fine entertainment at that. There is no doubt that Ward XVI take their craft very seriously, trying to produce the best music they can but there’s also a lightness and playfulness here that says that they really don’t take themselves too seriously.
Like Alice Cooper before them, this is an act and one that speaks of huge ambition, a life beyond a mirror cracked.
Conversely, there are some truths here that can not be ignored and the monsters in the world are not always imaginary, Ward XVI showing that they understand that balancing act between those two spheres.
Brilliantly constructed, ‘Unplugged and Sedated’ is a fine addition to not just their theatrical canon of work, but to the collections of anyone who likes great songs, well sung and played.