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Viarosa - Where The Killers Run

  by John Clarkson

published: 4 / 7 / 2005

Viarosa - Where The Killers Run
Label: Pronoia Records
Format: CD


Diverse, complex and ultimately redemptive debut album from outstanding London six piece Viarosa, which encompasses elements of rock, folk, country and the blues

It will not come as much of a surprise to anyone listening to ‘Where The Killers Run’, the superb debut album of London-based band Viarosa, that its front man and songwriter Richard Neuberg is a lapsed Catholic. Like many other ex-Catholics, he has never totally ever been able to abandon his former faith. From its outset, and the first line of its first track ‘Blindfold’ (“There’s an open wound in the father’s son”), ‘Where The Killers Run’ is embedded with a rich sense of religious imagery. Neuberg (vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin) formed Viarosa in 1999 with his friend Josh Hillman (violin, viola). Hillman is also a member of the critically acclaimed Willard Grant Conspiracy. The duo has since expanded to also include Rob McHardy (bass, lap steel, banjo and mandolin) ; Mick Young (stand-up and electric bass) ; Emma Seal (vocals) and former Cornershop member Nick Simms (drums). Neuberg, who is in his mid 30’s, has had to cope with a realm of personal tragedies during the last two decades. As he explained in a revealing Pennyblackmusic interview earlier this year, he has suffered from both ME and depression. His sister committed suicide and his father died when he was still a boy. Many of these harsh life tales are sewn into the lyrics of ‘Where the Killers Run’. Like many other of the best songwriters, Neuberg, however, keeps his lyrics just open enough so that his listeners can add to and fill them out with their own interpretations and wounds and experiences. The music on ‘Where the Killers Run’ is similarly diverse and complex, ranging from rock to folk and country to blues. ‘Blindfold’ opens the album dramatically. Neuberg’s rasped vocals and churning guitar blast up alongside Hillman’s waspish violin and Young’s rattling stutters of stand-up bass into a searing waltz. Hillman’s cohort in the WGC, Simon Alpin, has been drafted in on additional guitar to further augment the sound, and ‘Blindfold’ indeed has an element of that band. Ironically, however, it recalls more the period of their second album ‘Flying Low’, which seamlessly merged together rock, punk and country and was recorded long before either musician joined the band in 1998 rather than their latest record ‘Regard the End’, the first to feature Hillman, which has found the WGC experimenting with traditional folk ballads. Neuberg’s lyrics meanwhile tell of an undisclosed, never-to-be resolved father-son conflict, upon which he concludes wryly that it is sometimes better to just walk away. It is a powerful and auspicious, if bleak start. Much of the rest of the album is equally melancholic, but similarly rewarding. Eerie pastoral ballad ‘Only Child’, presumably written in tribute to Neuberg’s sister, tells of the death of a young woman (“She’d have cried for another kick at the right side of life/But only with a harder heart inside/So she died with a break from the neck/and a knife from behind”). The rustic blues of ‘Poor Man’s Prayer’, while drawing parallels with modern times, looks back to the Middle Ages for inspiration and is about a group of poor tenant landowners, chased away from and murdered for their land by mercenaries (“Lord of hope, Lord of all we trust/What a waste, what a waste of a poor man’s prayer”). The title track, a swirling country blues number, which again features Alpin on additional guitar, meanwhile is about depression (“You better kiss the feet and plea/Beg for forgiveness/Pray to be released/You better pray to be released”) About half way through, ‘Where the Killers Run’,however, begins to lighten in its tone. Emma Seal, who has until now remained a simmering presence in the background, is suddenly thrust into the fore and onto lead vocals on ‘All This Worry (Will Be Over Soon)’, a chirpy folk number, which replete with throaty whoops and yelps, is reminiscent of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny (“All this worry will leave when you’re free/All this worry will leave when you’re free”). ‘The Violet Hour’ is a softly languid and hazy instrumental. The stark, pensive ‘Soul Light’, which finds Neuberg accompanied on acoustic guitar and plucked mandolin by just Hillman’s humming pedal steel, is about the after effects of a death. Despite Neuberg’s loss of faith (“The saviour don’t come when you’re grieving’), he knows also that his own inner strength will get him through his mourning (“There’s a light in my soul/Hear it singing/The day we were born/You started believing”). The last track, breezy rocker ‘Wake’, which features all six members of the band, Alpin and other special guests, additional bassist Barry Payne and keyboardist Rick Carter, is far removed from ‘Blindfold’ and the other early tracks, and finds Neuberg looking cautiously, but optimistically to the future (“Open your eyes/The face of broken life ain’t what you find/And when the dear light calls you/You’re gonna work it out.”) No one could wish for Richard Neuberg’s early life. One can only hope that its second half will be much less traumatic. Rather than fall into the trap of self-pity, he has , however, while acknowledging the pains of the past, come up with a record that is ultimately both uplifting and redemptive. Demanding of its listener but totally satisfying, ‘Where The Killers Run’ is an album to be treasured.

Track Listing:-
1 Blindfold
2 Only Child
3 Blood From A Stone
4 Poor Man's Prayer
5 Where The Killers Run
6 Call To Arms
7 All This Worry (Will Be Over Soon)
8 Boy
9 The Violet Hour
10 Soul Light
11 Wake
12 Porous (Bonus Track)
13 Out On The Edge Of Nafplion (Bonus Track)
14 Whiskeyworld (Bonus Track)

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Interview (2005)
Viarosa - Interview
London alt. rockers Viarosa have just released their debut Ep 'Porous' and have an album on the way. Frontman Richard Neuberg talks to John Clarkson about the influence his one-time Catholic faith and personal tragedy has had on his songwriting

live reviews

Borderline, London, 11/4/2007
At the Borderline in London, Olga Sladeckova watches rising alt. country bands Viarosa and Hey Negrita, the latter playing its first gig in a new line-up, play stunning sets
Night and Day, Manchester, 10/12/2006
Luminaire, London, 20/1/2006

digital downloads


Send For The Sea (2008)
Staggeringly life-affirming and diverse second album from London-based Americana project, Viarosa

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