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Principe Valiente – Oceans

Oceans is the latest album from Stockholm act Principe Valiente and it sees the band continue to refine their twilit reveries. They called this stuff ‘Goth’ in my day – that particular strand of post punk dealing in dark fantasies and even darker eyeliner. These days I suppose it’d be Darkwave or Coldwave. Some kind of wave anyhow. The band describe themselves as “dark pop/shoegaze” and see their third album as a continuation of the work from the previous two. I view it more as a culmination. If anything , previous album Choirs Of Blessed Youth was the more shoegazy. This new one is a refined set of doom-laden anthems, widescreen in ambition and exultant in execution.

‘Strangers In The Night’, the first single lifted from Oceans, is signature Principe Valiente. The wrought-iron basslines struggle to hold onto the descending guitar riffs and it’s oh so very Cure. The Swedes have always had a cracking single in their repertoire going all the way back to ‘The Night’ from their 2011 self-titled debut. Yet Oceans is bigger than just the ‘hits’. Though excellent, ‘Strangers In The Night’ and follow up single ‘Wildest Flowers’ could potentially mislead newer listeners. As jaunty slabs of Goth majesty go, these songs fly. Yet Principe Valiente have a wider sonic pallet and the rest of Oceans reveals more of the band’s true capabilities. A song like ‘When I Learned To Crawl’ deserves some kind of recognition for doing far more than any mere genre piece. As brilliantly constructed as ‘When I Learned To Crawl’ undoubtedly is, the epic ‘Untouchable’ might vie for ‘favourite track’ status. ‘Untouchable’ is just mighty.

Oceans is also the best showcase so far for the vocal abilities of Fernando Honorato. Verging at times on the operatic, Honorato is a shot in the arm of pure personality. More than theatrical enough to satisfy the ‘dressy-up’ faction of Goth fans, I prefer him reigning it in. At times on Oceans, Honorato approaches Brett Anderson levels of glam or perhaps more pointedly Dominic Appleton’s (Breathless, This Mortal Coil) mastery of melancholy. Of course, Principe Valiente being Principe Valiente, it could only ever be Appleton and Anderson amped up to eleven.

If someone took an early Cure template and did what Steve Lillywhite did for the fledgling U2, it might result in something like Oceans. This is an album that dares to dream big and, as a result, it’s joyful, unabashed Goth anthems soar (there’s an oxymoron for you).

I think Oceans is Principe Valiente’s greatest collection to date. If this one is their War, I really want to hear their Unforgettable Fire.

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