All Saints builds on the brilliance of “Red Flag” with “Testament”
This review is by guest blogger Bjorn Thomassen
Following the now infamous messy split over a jacket in 2001, and a disappointingly stumped return five years later with the ska- and reggae-infused “Studio 1”, it’s surprising to see All Saints return with their potentially strongest effort to date. With their fifth album “Testament”, gone is the in-fighting, the gossip magazine craze and the chart hit chasing. What now remains is a solid four-unit of mature, confident and talented women seemingly creating music out of pure love and passion.
The “Testament” campaign picked up stylistically where their last album, 2016’s triumphant return “Red Flag”, left off. First single “Love Lasts Forever” builds on the tribal feel present of some of the last album’s tracks. It does not make an immediate grandiose impact, but builds to a bombastic, joyful and high-energetic gorgeous pop song, penned by main songwriter Shaznay Lewis as a heartfelt reminder to her son that love does, indeed, last forever. While “Red Flag” was a confident return, “Testament” sees the ladies be more daring, experimental and maybe above all, playful. Pre-release track “Three Four” oozes sexiness, slick beats and possibly Nicole Appleton’s strongest solo vocal delivery to date. Elsewhere, “No Issues” is an upbeat ode to a joyful, uncomplicated relationship, while “I Would” takes cues from the 90’s Bristol trip-hop movement infused with stunning vocal harmonies.
The album’s centerpiece is without a doubt the phenomenal “After All”, which sees them team up with “Pure Shores” and “Black Coffee” hitmaker William Orbit, almost 18 years later. The production is unmistakably him. It is full of breezy, and warm electronics, but with a modern take on the beats and effects. The goosebump-inducing chorus sounds like sunshine beaming down from the skies on an otherwise dark and rainy day, and the song’s middle 8 blends their harmonies in a glorious crescendo. It sounds like a classic already, and a song worthy of success, built not only for radio play but for glorious sing-a-long stadium concerts.
“Fumes” takes a surprising doze of anger with Middle Eastern-inspired production flourishes and a soaring, yet dark chorus. Another Orbit-produced highlight is “Testament In Motion”, beautifully merging stop-start electronic beats and synths with floaty, airy string breakdowns. While the soul and brass vibes of “Don’t Look Over Your Shoulder” may sound out of place at first, it is a welcome breath of fresh air from the slightly more electronic production of the rest of the album.
Perhaps their most cohesive work to date, “Testament” sees All Saints meet the highs of their commercial prime with a remarkably confident approach. This is the sound of four ladies not out to prove anything to anyone, but making music out of joy, friendship and love. While they might not quite reach the dazzling heights of “Pure Shores” or “Never Ever” ever again (unless “After All” gets the radio play it deserves), they have never sounded more at ease with themselves or their place in the pop landscape in 2018.
STAR RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
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