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Principe Valiente – Principe Valiente

Another good reason to embrace Swedish music. Stockholm based, Principe Valiente take their cues from early 80’s post-punk, particularly the doom-laden variety. There is nothing here that you haven’t heard before but what these Swedes do offer us is delivered with, to coin a phrase, breathtaking competence. I think the album is a re-release? Regardless, it manages to achieve a kind of a halfway point between Xymox and Sisters Of Mercy . Of recent acts I suppose it most recalls the likes of Silence Is Sexy , Kim Novak , She Wants Revenge etc, not the Editors and Interpol that I have seen mentioned in dispatches.

Everything these guys do is cold and crisp. Plus points – the songs themselves are terrific. ‘150 Years’, ‘In My Arms’, ‘The Night’ and ‘One More Time’ sound like classics. Once heard, it is tough to imagine a time before they existed. The bands guitars are another strength. This is the main reason why the Editors comparison is misleading. Principe Valiente guitars blaze. The clearest reference point is The Edge , especially from those early, Lillywhite-produced U2 albums but at other times they bring to mind the Banshees vast canon of superb guitarists.

I like the vocals less. These are often lost in a wash of echo, providing little more than a ghostly background presence. It’s testament to the songwriting that these pieces still work despite the vocal limitations. Bass is competent enough but the mix places too much emphasis is on the drumming. I understand why. It’s probably to get that ‘insistent’, driving, almost mechanical vibe. The Sisters, like many bands of the time, ( Cocteau Twins ) employed drum-machine which lent those old records a distinctive, albeit dated sound. I cringe sometimes, when listening to some of my old albums and yet they remain Treasured favourites. In Principe Valiente’s case I just think the drums aren’t interesting enough to be pushed so far to the front of the soundscape.

Closing track ‘Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow’ seems to belong to an entirely different collection – spaghetti western guitars, no drums and a girlie backing vocal. It isn’t an epic but it could be a pointer toward future direction. Other than that, this album is a solid genre piece and little more. Not life changing. No crossover appeal. But excellent at what it does. And if you like this stuff it has to come pretty highly recommended.

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