May 18, 2023
Photo: Mark Latham.

The mystery of music in the modern age can be a perplexing one. For starters, the Internet is a wonderful tool that can bring bands ‘reach’, putting them into the ears of millions. Conversely, with 100,000 songs uploaded to steaming services daily, genuine talent can get swallowed up with users picking through an ever-expanding ocean of choice. It can therefore be frustrating to discover a band such as UK act Servers and wonder how the hell such calibre could be missed? The dark heart and soul of Servers has always been the song, the visual of hooded figures push that focus onto the music and with cerebral lyrics, this is a band that is serious about both the details as well as the delivery.

Servers’ fourth album The Vertical Plane is something of a beast and an eclectic one at that and is darker in tone and tempo, an alt-rock-meets- metal invitation into the abyss but one that presents ledges on the way down and a rope to pull the listener back up creating both an edgy and exhilarating experience. Lyrically, Servers has always delved into the human condition, government control, conspiracies, science and religion but rather than wielding fantastical stories, the songs relate to real experiences or at least some seriously in-depth research.

For anyone interested in the esoteric, The Vertical Plane will be a familiar title in that it is named after the book by Ken Webster detailing events – commonly known as the Dodleston Mysteries – where Webster tells a story of corresponding in archaic English via a computer with someone that claimed to live in Webster’s cottage 400 years previously. While the album is not a concept record, the title feeds into the overall theme of the album that challenges belief systems, religion, those who preach from upon high and mass manipulation whilst delving into Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

As deep as the lyrical inspiration is, it sits perfectly with the sonic backdrop of monolithic riffs and interspersed electronic weirdness. Main man, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Lee Storrar has never failed on previous albums to bring the guitar but Servers is now three guitar band with Jamie Beatson and new six stringer Will Price which adds some serious heft to proceedings. Opener Absolom has a dirge like grind, a wall of guitars with Storrar’s vocals rising above the instruments, Try To Get Some Sleep picks up serious pace, a demon-on-the-chest, heavy as fuck banger that adds some superb guitar tones while King Of Nothing, dressed in a progressive soundscape, slick time changes that adds layer of texture. The Vertical Plane is not an instant album, the first three songs have their hooks, but the remaining seven songs do require some effort and time to sink in their teeth.

The musicians – returning bassist Lee Wilde and drummer Liam Power – and with Will Price contributing to song writing – the band is in clear synchronicity; the lighter and airier introduction on Here, There Everywhere is sublime, the juxtaposition of the background chugginess and sweet guitar carries the song whereas the lyrical spite of Mother Of All Lies sits within the up tempo drums of Will Power. The maddest track is You Still Come Willingly with the Bouzoouki ratcheted against the almost choir like vocals, it is an ingenious and inventive collaboration of sounds but it is the closing track Incorruption that really sends chills, another Sabbath-like tempo to start, dropping into serrated chugs of guitar, then soaring before dropping again, the time changes move and bend the song with a stunning solo section for good measure. The song ends with the words and voice of Marshall Appewhite, the American leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult that organised a mass suicide in 1997, that voice is the last sounds of the album and it is something that hammers home the point of the record’s lyrical inspiration leaving the the listener wrapped in an eerie echo that is terrifyingly difficult to shake.

Over the course of ten songs, The Vertical Plane is challenging but repeated listens bring the rewards and it is one of those albums that is worth the time to sit with headphones to soak in the detail. The band’s previous efforts – 2014’s Leave With Us, 2016’s Everything Is Ok and 2019’s Ad Nauseum – does have a lot more instant access to the songs but overall, The Vertical Plane digs much deeper bringing the cult of Servers to fruition and as a result ultimately the challenge is worth the effort.

The Vertical Plane is released on 19 May via Undergroove and can be pre-orderd via Bandcamp. Servers play two release shows on 24th and 26th May with FREE entry – for more information visit the band’s Facebook or Twitter.