Album Review : Unknown Refuge – From the Darkness

Review by Peter Coates –

Release – 29 Jan 2021
Unknown Refuge formed early in 2016 with Alex Mancini, then aged 15 as lead singer, and four friends from the Music and Performing Arts Service in Salford, in the UK. Within 6 months of forming, they entered the Salford Battle of the Bands which required one song to be original.  This started Alex on his song writing journey. Despite their relatively short time as a band, they were crowned winners, gaining a headline slot at Manchester’s Band on the Wall, plus a recording session at SSR Manchester.  

Despite their young years, Unknown Refuge have taken their time and allowed their musical sound​ and identity to mature, arriving at the current line-up early in 2020, before unleashing their debut single To the Light​, which was released on 21st​ Aug 2020.  The track received rave reviews with Total Rock Radio saying “…I like this, the vocals are​ very Volbeat in a good way…old school heavy metal at its best…”.  The second single Shadows was released on 16th Oct 2020 and the band gaining momentum with radio plays increasing both Nationally and Internationally.  The third single If The Gods Be Good was released on 4th Dec, all three singles are from their debut album From the Darkness​, which is due for release on 29th Jan 2021.

My first impressions were set with the fresh-faced youngsters in a somewhat awkward photo-shoot, and understanding that the band are only just out of their teens – and my expectations of the likely sound were severely misplaced.  This is a very mature, polished and superbly executed slab of quality hard rock – crisp, taut and super-tight – with some sensational guitar playing, and a great vocal performance from Alex.

The album opens up with a slightly atmospheric, almost emo-type intro as the album title From The Darkness, before raging into the first of many top-notch riffs in To The Light which powers along thanks to the cracking drumming of Morgan Deveney, and the twin guitar-licks of Jack Tracey and Harry Skinner.  Alex shows off an impressive vocal range, and there are some effective backing vocals that blend in with the guitars and add some real depth to the overall sound.  There is a purity and clarity to the lead guitar work in the stripped-back mid-section, before it all kicks back in with some epic double-kick drum patterns through to the close.

Think Bullet For My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat, Godsmack and modern Judas Priest as elements of the sound, with some solid song structures, and a solid consistent sound based on the distinctive vocal tones, and back that up with excellent musicianship and really good production values (not sure who from), and you get the picture.  Kicked To The Floor is another solid effort, before Battle Hymn really lays down a powerful statement, and provides a fresh sound in the way the verse is delivered, and a catchy harmony in the chorus.  There are more riffs in this track than in some full albums, and an immense light-fingered solo from Jack that really impresses.

Shadows was the second single release, and opens up with Alex on the bass, before the guitars kick in, and then Morgan pounds the toms in the intro, and then the band rolls into a totally different tempo for the verse and chorus – again with some effective backing vocals, wonderfully harmonious, and then gang-style in the chorus.  I really lover the last 40 seconds of this track, with an outro riff that could have gone on for much longer with the guitars going bezerk over the top.

An impressive opening to Palace Walls leads into a blinding riff that is all old-school power metal – the guitar sound is massive, and the bass and drums provide a wall of sound behind the guitars, while Alex and the backing vocals soar over the top.  Wall of Lies provides more of the same, with a slightly discordant melody, before the latest single release If The Gods Be Good chimes in, again with a catchy hook-line in the chorus, and even a set of “Woah Oh Oh’s” to be proud of!  

A frenetic riff kicks off I’m Not A Bad Guy, with some killer staccato accents, powerhouse drumming, a brutal lead guitar lick that runs through the whole song, and some mammoth vocals both lead and backing.  The track gets even more riotous with the mid-section and solo, and Morgan is even more of a demon on the kit than previously heard!  Don’t let the Hawaiian shirt and skater shorts suggest otherwise! 

A really good harmony guitar-lick opens up and drives the main riff of the album-closer, Journey, which again is a solid slab of hard rock – given a really distinctive edge from the assured and rounded vocal performance from Alex Mancini, who has a real talent and impressive range, which is well-supported by the harmony vocals employed across the album.  

I have reviewed around 30 albums in the past 12 months from a range of British rock bands in the NWOCR world, and have constantly been impressed by the range of sounds, the technical quality and musicianship of the often young band-members, the great productions, and the delivery of an excellent product.  Unknown Refuge are the first release of 2021 and they have set a really high standard for the New Year already – From The Darkness is right up there, showing an attitude and delivery beyond their years!

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Unknown Refuge are: ​  
Alex Mancini – Vox & bass 
Jack Tracey – Lead Guitar 
Harry Skinner – Rhythm Guitar
Morgan Deveney – Drums