Dark light and The Wishess’ might
By Ningombam Captain
Artist: The Wishess
Genre: Alternative Rock
Length: 44 mins 17 secs
Release date: 16th February, 2019
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I remember clearly. I was in school, when the widely snubbed metalhead kid from class VIII ran to my desk during recess and told me about a Manipuri band that covered Judas Priest’s song “Painkiller” live the previous day, that too, perfectly. Perfectly? Does that include the “perfect” take on K.K. Downing’s sweep picking riff or the insane high pitch vocals? I don’t know for I wasn’t at the concert. But he told me that the performance was worthwhile but their sound was a bit mediocre. And I believed him. Little did I knew then, that I’d find this mysterious band a couple of years later covering a U2 song. I didn’t quite find the band like I expected. Their sound has changed, and that’s why their song choice altered from speed metal to alternative. That, I assume, is a good thing because they’re doing it perfectly. They covered it so well. No mediocrity, no sirre! The compressed guitar effects was Edge-y and the vocal was so Bono (pardon me for using names as adjectives). After watching them live, I started to agree that they deserve their numerous awards and accolades. They are none other than the eight years old alternative rock band - The Wishess. They’ve finally managed to release a full-length album titled “Our Pride” on the 16th of February, 2019 at the Manipur Press Club.
Often a good album is not all about musicianship. If it was so, then all of Dream Theater’s albums are supposed to be hits. In fact, a good album is characterized mostly by its sound - or the overall “soundscape”. The members of The Wishess are technically proficient and they deliver compact live performances with traces of a good band chemistry. Their musicianship is thus, undoubtedly perfect. Now, let’s talk about their sound. I imply, their “original” sound. They use compression and modulated delays for their guitar riffs for most of the songs, clean guitar solos and wide powerful vocals. Does that ring a bell? They sound like U2, specifically during their “Joshua Tree” and “Unforgettable Fire” era. I device this inference from a little experiment of mine, performed by gathering a group of listeners not acquainted with the sound of U2. When I mixed up a handpicked tracklist of the two bands, the listeners are unable to differentiate the artists, except for some suspicions.
The album kick-starts with an instrumental called “A walk amongst the clouds”. Even if it is the shortest track in the album, it is the most ethereal to listen to, and can make you feel like it is the sunrise of the best day of your life. The absence of lyrics makes the track more precious.
The second titular track “Our Pride” is bilingual, featuring the great Guru Rewben Masgangba delivering the opening lines in his bluesy baritone voice. Guru Rewben represents the hills and Bishikanta, the plains. Their collaboration symbolizes, not only an accidental or deliberate encounter in the recording studio, but the unity and communal harmony of Manipur.
“I don’t care” is the third track and features the most powerful lyrics of the album. Despite the title, the song is not about recklessness. It is about hoping for a change and recovery, Bishikanta sings “...no more lies, no more fears...”. If you’re going through a breakup, this is the right track for you to mend the “heart split in two”. Move on, alright?
The fourth track “Brow Antlered Love” is an untraditional ode to the Sangai. The title is a wordplay of its English name, Brow Antlered Deer. This song does justice to the title of the album also; for the Sangai is indeed every Manipuri’s pride. And everytime this song is sung, you’ll think of the beautiful deer.
The best vocal delivery and guitar work of the album is in the track “When I’m gone”. It showcases Bishikanta Thounaojam’s explosive octaves. Like when he sings “I don’t want you to go, through it all”, it is a sudden change from a high register to a whisper. Izzy Naw’s guitar solo is really skilful and tasteful in this one. It is quite impressive that his guitar outro is cut midway by the fade away. Maybe that solo goes on forever in another dimension, who knows.
Maverick Ayekpam’s downstroke bass line compliments the song “Safe and Mine” really well. It is the longest track of the album and has a really catchy riff. Well, a 6 minutes long love song is what this album needs to pivot itself around. And it is also exactly what we all need right now.
U2’s influence on The Wishess can be heard undoubtedly in the seventh track “Your Way”. The lyrics itself is motivating enough like most U2 songs. The guitar riff is an amalgam of slide guitar notes in the ambience of compressed delays. This is the most alternative sounding track by The Wishess.
My personal favorite is the eighth track “Dark Light”. This might not be the best vocal performance, but the vocalist’s accent of the lyrics really signifies the accompanying emotions. This track does not feature their signature delay effect used extensively in the other songs and does not resemble U2 at all; and this is one of the primary reasons why I like this one more. “Dark Light” is what The Wishess’ actual sound is supposed to be. This song is my pride in listening to this album.
“Feels good to be alive” is the penultimate track, and one can easily hear Coldplay’s influences in this one. It is a celebration of life itself. Whereas the last bonus track “Komla” is a celebration of oranges, literally, for it was composed for the Orange Festival held at Tamenglong.
It is quite undeniable that The Wishess wears the sound of the bands that influenced them up their sleeves, but it questionable if they are getting overdressed with it. If it is just a phase of their evolving sound, then it is okay. But if they still continue to sound more like their influencers, it’ll be boring afterwards. But hey, this happens once in a while. You see, the progressive rock band Rush was once called the “Canadian Led Zeppelin” on the release of their debut. My best wishes (I was about to pun this one) goes to The Wishess, for they are the most hardworking and active band in the alternative rock scene of Manipur.
Bishikanta Thounaojam - vocals
Izzy Naw - lead guitar
Bona So - rhythm guitar
Maverick Ayekpam - bass
Chingkhei Nongthombam - drums and percussion
(Ningombam Captain is the creator of Blue Bannerman Reviews. The writer is currently pursuing English Hons. in MS University, and can be contacted at [email protected])
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