Spiritual language shares something with medicine: unsettling imagery. This key similarity is prevalent throughout the latest album from UK rock band Dry The River, their sophomore release titled Alarms In The Heart. Taking their now infamous folksy-rock musical presence and incorporating more visual descriptions creates an album that achieves many things, even if making a little discomfort in the process. But at the same time, this lack of comfort is something we are seeking, even if unintentionally.
There’s a great scene in the 2010 film The Book Of Eli where the antagonist (played amazingly by Gary Oldman) Carnegie explains why he’s searching the post-apocalyptic world for a particular book. He explains to his lead henchman that it’s not just any book, that what’s in it can be used to draw people in, make them see things differently. It’s an unsettling scene because not only does it shine a finely-pointed light on what motivates the villain of the story, but also illustrates how something used for good can also be turned and used for something else.
Peter Liddle has a similar belief, yet his use of biblical imagery is used to paint lyrical stories more vividly than regular language conveys. Liddle, Dry The River lead singer and songwriter, has much to offer music and fans in the way of crafting a harmony between our understanding of life and the pictures painted through scripture. Alarms dives head first into subjects pertaining to faith, acceptance of mission, and even goes to a more personal exploration of the songwriter. Yet this is more than just a followup record, as it comes to us as fans and listeners as the finished product of a long and unplanned journey.
A former med student, Liddle spent a portion of his time in medical school while also writing music. When the band took off in 2010, and became a hit both in the UK as well as the US, he left med school to devote himself exclusively to music. The transition was not something he or the band had accounted for on the front end. It all just sort of happened. This aspect of life as a med student and the experiences there are looked at through reflective possibilities in the (appropriately titled) track Med School.
“I actually wrote that song because a lot of the people I went to medical school with graduated as doctors this year so it’s more about…that was kind of five years ago or four years ago when the band first signed and I quit med school and now it’s about me kind of looking back and sort of comparing the trajectory I’m on to the path I could have been on. And it’s a bit nostalgic and retrospective. It’s not regretful I don’t think of having chosen music and it’s not gloating and saying that I’m much better off. It’s just kind of exploring how things could have been different,” Liddle said.
The band getting signed to a major label right way was a change in the plans for everyone. What followed would lead to Liddle leaving medical school to pursue working on music and a very rigorous tour schedule to promote their music include three EPs and their first full album Shallow Bed in 2012. Dry The River would evolve tremendously in their setup, songwriting, and connection with each other through this arduous process.
“Suddenly we were signed, fairly unexpectedly, and we suddenly had to make a record and we toured almost 3 years, kind of 500 shows without stopping,” Liddle said, “and suddenly came off tour at the end of 2012 and didn’t really know what. It was the first time we’d had to stop and reflect what aspects of this worked pretty well, both musically and practically in terms of the team we were working with. So it was a chance to really digest our situation and figure out if there were any changes that we wanted to make. Initially it was quite daunting.”
The time span of being on the road touring impacted the connections within the band, as well as the staff of people helping them behind the scenes. Transitioning back to writing and recording took some time and preparation, something else not initially factored in. After taking some time off to reflect and regain focus, as well as making some changes within the band and team, Dry The River is back with a profoundly moving piece of music that collectively, and individually explores what it means to be human and to question beliefs without completely changing them.
“The same kind of motivation to using the biblical imagery to use medical imagery (again) kind of taps into something primal and primitive about human experience. Medicine is something that unsettles a lot of people because people are concerned with health and the human body. It’s a bit of a mystery (to) a lot of people, the kind of inner workings of the body is confusing to the general public. People, you know, are always looking for various treatments and convincing themselves that they’ve got various ailments. That’s a whole thing you can tap into, like an interesting thing to play with.”
Standout tracks on Alarms that illustrate the maturity in songwriting as well as the band’s dynamic growth through texture-weaving includes Vessel, Gethsemane, and Hidden Hand. These great tracks and more continue to be regular features on our radio show. Alarms In The Heart is available on August 25th. More information on Dry The River available here.