There’s an air of mystery surrounding Priest and by that I mean, there’s not much known about them. Whilst you have the links to Ghost, it seems that the band themselves are conscious about delivering a unique package, disconnected from anything else. If you take a look at their social media, it’s a concoction of cyberpunk, futurism and a machine-like aesthetic. Their concept is a little ‘out-there’ but not necessarily needed to enjoy their music.
Their debut album has come fairly swiftly and after hearing a couple of the singles, I was mildly excited. There was a concern that Priest would deliver a hammy experience, failing to straddle the undeniable campy nature of their influences, with any sense of seriousness. Thankfully, they’ve nailed it. If I could describe New Flesh in not so many words, it’d be this: A 1980s European Sex Dungeon vibe. Intrigued? Then read on…
New Flesh begins in a manner that’s immediate. “The Pit” is a slow-burning, sinister introduction to this eccentrically dark album. It’s a subtle number that hints at Priest’s strengths – melodies and composition. This is apparent within the first three tracks alone.
“Vaudeville” follows suit, with its urgent rhythm and flamboyant vocal melodies that birth a warped club hit. You can imagine people dancing with glow sticks to this industrial infused number. Its melodramatic chorus adds to the aura of the album, which is deliciously dark and a little bit campy; a la old school slasher film meets tight leather, gimp suits and androgynous 80s pop.
The three-track supremacy reaches its end with “History In Black”. This is Priest’s take on a ballad, except it’s unnerving and aptly morbid. The song shows off vocal versatility, featuring melodies that are simplistic yet effective. Instrumentally, it borrows from the underground dance scene, being strikingly European in sound.
The Euro-sound runs throughout the album and acts as its core. “History In Black” features a bass heavy instrumental with the synths channeling a nightclub in Berlin. This is the most ‘radio’ friendly song and Priest have executed it well.
The opening trifecta leaves a lasting impression and whilst it sets a high bar, Priest continue to deliver. New Flesh never slows down and each track is an exploration of their influences. Every track has character and it helps bring the experience to life.
Take “Populist” for example, an overbearing, moody throwback to Kraftwerk x Some Great Reward era Depeche Mode. It’s sexually charged and the instrumental adds to the overtly seedy atmosphere. The vocal delivery oozes a twisted sex appeal, too. Honestly, I think the best description for “Populist” are these two words: BDSM anthem. Frankly, you could imagine many ungodly things occurring whilst this song creeps from the speakers.
After “Populist” closes, you’re thrown into the fire as “The Cross” slips inside the soul. It’s a stripped down affair with an instrumental that isn’t drowned in sound. The beat is back-boned by a 1-2 kick drum and an eerie sizzling synth line. The song itself is well-rounded and adds a nice little punch to the middle of the listening experience. Once you get past the halfway point, New Flesh goes to some even weirder places.
“Private Eye” is Soft Cell-lite and lyrically, it’s a creepy, fairly shallow affair. Now, that’s not to say it’s a bad song (it isn’t), it’s that nothing really happens compared to its predecessors.
“Nightmare Hotel” continues the odd curveball. It’s a suitably cheesy horror influenced number. It would fit in nicely on a B-movie soundtrack. There’s a bewitching charm about it. It’s also clear by this point, that Priest have curated their own brand of kinky gothic synth-pop.
Regardless of lyrical content or song structure, Priest consistently deliver a sonically impressive experience. Whilst the album’s sound draws from the past, its production value is modern. New Flesh is 80s in essence but 21st century in sound quality. However, the tropes that stung back then, continue to sting now.
Although the album is a great mixture of old and new, there are some moments that sound outdated. It isn’t so much a problem within itself but it may turn some people off. New Flesh embodies a niche sound and outside of its melodies, instrumentals and nostalgia, it can feel hollow in terms of lyrical substance. If you can appreciate the album for what it is, then you’ll be able to swallow some of the more difficult lyrical concoctions.
Despite the niche sound and lyrical shallowness, New Flesh left me with a big grin on my face. I enjoyed every track and for me, there isn’t a dull moment on this album. Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the current 80s revival as well as some of the juggernauts of 80s pop, so Priest have me there.
If anything, the album removed any trepidation I may have had around the whole schtick they’re creating, both as an image and within their music. They pull off being strange without sounding false, if anything, it sounds like they had a blast creating this body of work.
New Flesh is a resounding success. Whilst it’s bizarre, it’s well-constructed and exudes strong craftsmanship. The nature of the album is refreshing and delivered in a way that adds to the overarching theme which to me, is a sonic representation of a slave & master. Priest are pioneering their influences into a hybrid sound and New Flesh is Priest’s take on ‘frankensteined’ fetish synth-pop music. All in all, it’s a bloody good jaunt.
Priest new album New Flesh is out now on Lovely Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Jake Gould