Milestone studio LP number ten for Bradford, England's NMA is their best and most jarring since 1993's The Love of Hopeless Causes, and possibly 1986's blistering The Ghost of Cain. It's a seat-of-the-pants ride through punk-edged rock and cooling breather songs, taking all of Justin Sullivan's long experience and transmitting it into something so fierce but beautiful that it's often breathtaking. Whoever picked Chris Kimsey to produce was on the ball; High recalls the resounding hellfire of his Killing Joke work on 1984's Night Time and 1986's Brighter Than a Thousand Suns. (Think "Eighties" and "Love Like Blood") And these guitars and organs are like a Geordie hollow-body Gretsch attack! Three songs speak volumes for this corker. The British service in Iraq is on Sullivan's mind on the zenith, hellacious closer "Bloodsports." (Note, not Killing Joke's 1980 song "Bloodsport," though great minds think alike.) Yet he's too smart to jump on a soapbox and shout. Much more personally than he did on the directly critical (of the Thatcher administration) "Spirit of the Falklands" in 1984, he puts you into a scared soldier's spinning emotions. This expression of impending doom, fear, death, and pity -- while the rest of the world watches on TV -- is impossible to shake no matter your war views. (The celtic "No Mirror, No Shadow" also hints at back room politics/business surrounding such conflicts.) It's memorably driven by an icy Killing Joke-ish death-star keyboard, two burning guitars, and bruiser Michael Dean's inhuman pummeling on the drums. The opening single, "Wired," is likewise as simple a straight-kicking song as they've done since "Wonderful Way to Go," with Sullivan and new find Marshall Gill trading up-down riffs into one of the Sullivan's trademark soaring, monster choruses. And the rocked-up folk of "All Consuming Fire," with its Peter Hook wandering bassline, is full of tremendous trepidation and pathos. Three other cuts revisit Sullivan's solo masterpiece, 2003's "Navigating by the Stars"; the romantic, dark-night acoustic mediations of "Sky in Your Eyes," "Into the Wind," and "Dawn." And others are in the vein of 2005's Carnival, 2000's Eight, and 1998's Strange Brotherhood: midtempo tribal pop with philosophical pack-behavior explorations. All provide High balance and repertoire with equal passion. In the end, "Bloodsports" alone beats anyone else at present. Its the Who's Tommy-meets-the Clash's "Safe European Home" power is just colossal. But the whole LP is great. That High comes from someone doing it as long as Sullivan and mates have been has made and still makes them a classic band to follow -- then, now, and in the future. This cult band of cult bands is as effective and powerful as they've ever been in an unstoppable history.
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AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid