When describing Editors’ sixth album, Tom Smith keeps journeying back to the same word: “brutal”. It’s an apt descriptor for Violence, both in the record’s aggressive title and its all-enveloping, assertive sound. But on this follow-up to 2015’s stunning, top 5-charting In Dream, brutality doesn’t just exist as a one dimensional, juggernaut-like force. Violence isn’t brutal for the sake of it, and it’s rarely the enforcer. Instead, it acts as a haven, a protective shell against the often relentless brutality of the outside world.
In 2018, almost everyone is seeking some kind of escape – from ultra-consumerist culture, from tyrannical power-holders, from the endless swarm of grim headlines popping up as anxiety-inducing notifications. When Editors first started writing Violence towards the end of summer 2016, they didn’t intend to reflect today’s troubled times or create some kind of sanctuary from the world outside. Nor do the band view this album as some direct antidote to current events. This isn’t an overtly political record and it shouldn’t be perceived as such. But art has a habit of reflecting its environment. Months after finishing the record, Smith finally sees it in a new light:
“A lot of the songs are in a room,” he starts. “Outside of this room exists scary things, modern worries – the world we live in, essentially. But in this room, there’s a connection between two people. Whether that’s a direct relationship or if it’s friendship, there’s an escape. That connection is important because of the fear of what’s going on outside.” It’s hard to view this narrative outside of today’s context. Smith says he’s just like you and me – he often switches off the news when it gets overbearing. Not from a position of ignorance, but from a need to protect his own sanity, so that he can “focus on friends, children, things that are important to me.” Different people will draw different positives from this remarkable record, but for me, Violence finds solace in real-life connection. It doesn’t so much shun today’s grim realities as remind us that there’s always a shade of light to throw at the darkness."
That’s not to say Violence is all major keys and warm embraces. It prefers to be ferocious, in-your-face and direct, with equal emphasis on invention. It’s the sound of studio-heads honing their craft. Six albums in – three with former guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, three as the current five-piece – they sound more comfortable in their skin than ever. And whereas the self-produced In Dream saw the band relying on their own devices, this time they thrive thanks to outside input: production from Leo Abrahams (Wild Beasts, Florence & The Machine, Frightened Rabbit), additional production from Benjamin John Power (aka experimental producer Blanck Mass), plus mixing from Cenzo Townshend and Alan Moulder.
Recording sessions took place in Oxford from late summer 2016 to mid 2017, where the band shared a house, worked regular hours, and generally stayed “in touch with civilisation,” as guitarist Justin Lockey puts it. Their previous album, In Dream, saw the band relocate to the desolate Western Highlands in Scotland – this time they “took it easier and didn’t force anything.” He adds: “On the last record, you could tell we were in the wilderness. It was a really dense, deep, minimal affair. Whereas this one is a little bit busier. It’s pretty balls out. I don’t think there’s anything insular about it. It’s fizzy and it’s bright.”