Civil Villains: Snake Oil – Review

Civil Villains make their creative vision a reality on their attention-grabbing and melodically creative debut EP, Snake Oil.

Civil Villains started out as simply a creative outlet, considering themselves three friends just having a good time. James King (Vocals and Guitar), Toby Warren (Drums), and Mark Hudson (Bass) have known each other since childhood, then went a long period with no contact from one another. After re-establishing that contact many years later, they went on to work on a music review website, featuring festival coverage, interviews, etc. Through that outlet and an intense shared love for music, they made the decision to start a band and create music of their own. This led to a whirlwind of activity, including a DIY tour of North America. The recording process for the new EP, Snake Oil, put the band under the production of Wayne Adams and the songs were recorded live in one take. Through this process, the assumption would be that the connection and energy between the guys would be evident – and it is.

The record begins with Gargoyles; an extremely catchy song with very strong vocals. The musicianship is clearly excellent and full of interesting time signatures and great tempo changes. This is a moody and memorable piece and sets a nice tone for the EP.

Civil Villains - Snake Oil

Red Hands is next, a dynamic song which again showcases attention-grabbing tempo changes. It’s entertaining and solid with complex rhythms. Soaring elements would likely translate it very well to a live audience. Soapbox then mercilessly punches in with an intro that will have audiences jumping with its clear Modest Mouse influence. As heard in the previous songs, they do a nice job with unique time signatures and alternating tempos. This one is a nice addition to the record and continues to define a direction for the band.

Siren Bound busts in with a wonderful ear-pleasing chord, with the intro reminiscent of At The Drive-In. The song is melodic and shows how tight the band really is. Featuring a really solid breakdown which snakes its way back to the main riff, it’s a real pleasure to listen to. The tempo changes just work so well in this one, and the dynamics are stellar. Definitely one of the best tracks on Snake Oil

The EP concludes with Dead Still, which is also the lead single from the EP. It picks up where Siren Bound left off and is a monster of a song. Creative and articulate, it’s about five minutes of auditory bliss. This is a spirited track as it twists and turns to create an entertaining and powerful ride. I mentioned that Siren Bound was one of the best tracks on this record, and it is – but this one is superior. It’s a great culmination to the EP and leaves you wanting to hear more music from the band.

Civil Villains have created a strong debut with Snake Oil. While some of their influences come through loud and clear, you can also hear the creativity and originality of the band shining through. The EP takes its shot to make some noise and bring the band some much-deserved attention. I, for one, am excited to hear more from these guys and see where the future takes them – and you should be excited as well.

Score: 4/5

By Eric Keith

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