[sic] Magazine

Humanist – Humanist

Some bands simply outgrow their own era. Exit Calm were one such. Colossally melodic and unabashedly anthemic they stood out in the mixed-bag that was the mid noughties. Stood apart and eventually stepped away altogether. Their arena-sized alt rock deserved more.

Humanist is guitarist Rob Marshalls’ first real foray into a solo career. Lets already put an asterisk against that word ‘solo’. Marshall has brought some mates along to this party. Industry heavy hitters such as Dave Gahan and Mark Lanegan ignite this album with their instantly recognizable vocal talents. They aren’t the only ones to do so.

Sit down and strap yourself in. This is one Hell of a ride.

So what is Humanist?

According to Marshall this album explores:_

“Life, birth, death, religion, mortality. It is about creation vs. evolution, Heaven vs. Hell, the grave vs. eternal life, and how human beings react to those concepts. It’s an album about what hope means to us all.”

And explore these themes the album surely does, albeit with incendiary guitars. Marshall isn’t playing with matches here, nor even fireworks. These licks are surface-to-air missiles and they such hit the target with a bang. Marshall also produced the LP, teaching himself in the process. It’s a stunning job. The kitchen sink may have been thrown at this record but nothing is overblown. It is somehow remains widescreen yet still gritty and urban. Still vital.

Fun story about the guest vocals. Rob personally prefers a collaborative approach to music making. This is somewhat of a drawback for a solo venture so he created a ‘wish list’ of the vocalists he admired the most. Leaving this with his manager he thought nothing further would come of it. Amazingly, most said yes.

“I’m fairly quiet and dreamy, my head’s away in clouds of thoughts and imagination, but I’m driven to be as real and authentic as I possibly can musically; (music) was never really a choice, but the only thing I ever felt I could do. I’m a shy person but on stage my guitar leads me to a place of innate confidence, so I guess that’s where I’m most comfortable”.

Lanegan and Marshall appear to have struck up the closest bond, Marshall subsequently having co-written half of Lanegans acclaimed 2019 album Gargoyle. The live tour was supposed to feature James Mudriczki (Puressence) but has sadly been postponed due to the COVID 19. On a brighter note, I gather that Jimmy may appear on the next Humanist album. It’s a pretty exciting thought. I struggle to think of a more perfect fit.

Until then we have this little beauty, an album that avoids the schizophrenia to which many ‘guest’ projects often succumb. Yes it is richly varied, taking in Krautrock (‘English Ghosts’) Psyche and Southern Gothic as well as Marshalls’ trademark arena indie. Humanist never feels like a compilation record though. There is a through line of identity here that pushes the effect more toward an an alt-rock Mezzanine.

Surely one of the albums of the year already. Just what the Doctor ordered.

Humanist – website

Exit Calm – album review