Branch Arterial – Beyond the Border (2017)
We all know it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, but the path to Branch Arterial’s debut album Beyond the Border has also been a painfully protracted and arduous one.
In the past five years the Melbourne band’s bassist Kade Turner suffered a horrific motorbike accident, had a full hip replacement and learnt to walk again. Then vocalist Nigel Jackson was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, requiring a full bone marrow transplant.
Work on Beyond the Border started four years ago, and thankfully for fans of melodic progressive rock Branch Arterial saw the album through to fruition, because it’s a fine piece of work.
Branch Arterial, an apt name given numerous musical strands form the band’s sound, diverts from a sound similar to Australian compatriots Dead Letter Circus, Breaking Orbit and Karnivool, with traces of everything from Sevendust to Muse.
The fantastic ‘Circus’ sounds like The Mars Volta with a dash of funk-rock bass, while ‘Beyond the Border’, ‘Take Me’ and ‘Where Are You Now’ deftly add elements such as keyboards, strings, electronic beats and female vocals to the mix.
One could imagine My Chemical Romance covering ‘Where I Belong’. Jackson, his lyrics on the album seemingly extracted from his personal turmoil of the past few years, delivers impassioned and angst-fuelled vocals that would melt the hearts of Gerard Way groupies.
Drummer Adam Zaffarese comes to the fore on ‘Along Together’, while the guitar work of Jason Worthy and Tim Chilman shines through on tracks like ‘Waste Away’, ‘Driver’ and the tempo-shifting ‘My Curse’.
The standout song on the 10-track Beyond the Border offering, ‘My Curse’ boasts Tool-style stop–start rhythms and syncopation, killer guitar riffs and solos, and one of the catchiest choruses of this year.
That Branch Arterial is still together following such adversity is a victory. That they have delivered such a great debut album in Beyond the Border is a bonus.
Words by Lee Oliver