On their third album, Unkle blast post-apocalypse trip-rock around a darkly affluent guest list. The duo of James Lavelle and Richard File invited several members of the leading edge of rock to join them, much like on Psyence Fiction and Never, Never, Land, but this time, blend more rock sounds around the vocals. The tracks on War Stories also warrant a more subversive set of collaborators, however, as they feature more jaded atmospheres and gloomier rhythms.
The singers and bands that join Unkle on War Stories are as good as ever. Of the six guests to appear on War Stories, two are past contributors: Josh Homme and 3D. They both sang on Never, Never, Land and both follow with equally intriguing performances. Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age) threateningly wails on the digi-bounce, "Restless", and 3D (of Massive Attack) coolly whispers through the sonar-inspired thump on "Twilight". There are also two collaborators on War Stories that appear on two tracks each: Ian Astbury and Gavin Clark. Astbury, known for his time with The Cult, contributes his signature, ominous voice to the future-grind "Burn My Shadow" and the final, stringed anthem "When Things Explode". Clark, a member of Clayhill, croons on the quick, trippy rock of "Keys to the Kingdom" and the '80s-esque disco-punk "Broken". Meanwhile, Autolux shine on the pulsing jam, "Persons & Machinery", and The Duke Spirit cruise strongly on the pounding "May Day".
Even the non-guest tracks shine with fever and dramatically-mixed guitar rhythms. "Chemistry" powerfully cascades string-enhanced, distorted guitars down a thunderous beat. Lavelle even eerily adds his own vocals on the fuzzed, dancestomp "Hold My Hand". Lavelle and Fine both sing on the disturbed "Morning Rage". Frankly, they're about as good as any of the collaborative tracks.
As leaders of the electro-rock movement of the last decade, Unkle once again find themselves at the head of the class with War Stories. A dark look at modern music, with a more persuant rock twist than before, this album is compelling and provoking. Anthemic, dire, purposed, and alive, War Stories is as leading-edge and talented-infused as any release this year.