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Album Review
The Boxer Rebellion - Promises Album Cover

The Boxer Rebellion - Promises

Reviewed by
8.0
The Boxer Rebellion - Promises
Produced by: Sumit Bothra / Billy Bush
Label: Absentee Recordings/independent release
Release Date: May 14th, 2013
Hometown: London, UK
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
At first glance, Tennessee native Nathan Nicholson may just look like an Adam Scott/Zachary Quinto look alike, but he possesses an outstanding vocal range that leads a unique blend of arena-bound indie-rock known as The Boxer Rebellion. This isn't a one man show, however, because the noise that Adam Harrison (bass), Todd Howe (l.guitar) and Piers Hewitt (drums) create is equally as captivating.

Independently released, Promises contains a mix of anthemic stadium seekers and chilling ballads, all produced and polished to perfection. It's an album so fearless that it's stuck with me well into 2014.

Just ten seconds into lead track "Diamonds" and you're already enveloped. Soft in its capacity, the combination of guitars and synth lull you into a stupor. The verse melts right into the chorus with Nicholson chanting: "I'm no good next to diamonds / when I'm too close to start to fade." An instrumental outro closes the opening track. A combination of synth, a relentless guitar, and Nicholson's wailing remarks result in psychedelic overture and second track, "Fragile." It's all about the music; melody takes a back seat here. Pay attention to Hewitt who pounds away like a man possessed, all while the album gears up for its first great victory.

Like "Diamonds," "Always" has more of a subtle chorus, which is a great benefit. The Boxer Rebellion does a fantastic job with creating captivating melodies without over-saturating with obvious hooks. Nothing here feels over-produced or intentionally geared toward a radio audience. There's no "single" track that removes you from the album.

"Keep Moving," which sits right in the middle of Promises would be well suited for a Sochi montage. Nicholson gives The Temper Trap's Dougy Mandagi a run for his money; he kills during the chorus: "But I know / keep moving with me now / we've seen / the way it's gonna be." The song would have been impressive alone if they stopped there, but Hewitt's undeniable talent behind the drum kit and Todd Howe's delay-infused guitar bring it all together not only to form the apex of the record, but one of the best tracks of 2013.

Eight tracks deep, "Safe House" keeps the album moving. It hosts a surprising finish that, along with an impressive chorus, makes the song a highlight of the back half. It's a long song one for sure, but the band somehow kept my attention. Particularly intriguing is the way Nicholson uses the imagery of opening and closing your eyes in the verses. It sets a nice story as he closes on: "Follow me / help me out / I have no guarantees / but the shade of a safe house."

Promises ends powerfully with a moving pair that highlights all of the strengths of The Boxer Rebellion. If you're new to the band, definitely start here. "Dream" is a slow-paced canticle but somehow possesses the most power of any song on the album. Nathanson drives it home with a chilling chorus: "Dream is all you ever do / surround yourself with walls / so no one can get through."

"Promises" is a clear victor over the entire record, beating "Keep Moving" by just a hair. I'm glad they ended the album on an up-beat song. A slower ballad wouldn't have worked well. I listened to this album at work, out of a single left earphone, and was shocked when I put "Promises" through my car speakers. The lead riff in the beginning is only in the right speaker and it eluded me for the first few listens and added so much to the song. It was actually a pretty unique experience to have the song develop like that for me. Imagine a song that literally grows as you listen to it?

Promises certainly has some less-than-spectacular tracks, namely "Take Me Back" and "You Belong to Me," but it's still a solid play through all the way through. I think The Boxer Rebellion needs to be seen live to truly appreciate their sound; that seems to be the sound they are going for. I've yet to go out and see them, but plan to as soon as they tour the United States again.

I really do believe that they have the sound and the talent to sit beside Grammy acts Imagine Dragons or Arcade Fire, but there's definitely some uncontrollable luck involved there. Hopefully one day, The Boxer Rebellion will be heard by the right ears.

If You Like What's In Here, You Might Like The Boxer RebellionRadiohead, Oasis, The Temper Trap, The Killers, The National, Coldplay

Tracks and Links
1. Diamonds
2. Fragile
3. Always
4. Take Me Back
5. Low
6. Keep Moving
7. New York
8. Safe House
9. You Belong to Me
10. Dream
11. Promises

The Boxer Rebellion is:
Nathan Nicholson (singer, r.guitar)
Adam Harrison (bass)
Piers Hewitt (drums)
Todd Howe (l.guitar)

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Listen (Rdio)

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Displaying posts 1 - 10 of 10
06:47 AM on 04/10/14
#2
mbao
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"Diamonds" is a solid single and one of the standouts last year on alt radio for me.
07:23 AM on 04/10/14
#3
WeltallAY
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I absolutely love "Diamonds", such an ethereal sounding song. The slight vocal chorus in the beginning was a masterful touch. Is the rest of the album as good? Indie/Rock bands of this sound are typically one hit wonders for me.
08:31 AM on 04/10/14
#4
Anthony Sorendino
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"Diamonds" is a solid single and one of the standouts last year on alt radio for me.

I absolutely love "Diamonds", such an ethereal sounding song. The slight vocal chorus in the beginning was a masterful touch. Is the rest of the album as good? Indie/Rock bands of this sound are typically one hit wonders for me.

I love Diamonds, but it's easily the weakest of the top tracks.

Keep Moving is a must, but Always and Promises are amazing as well.
09:51 AM on 04/10/14
#5
WeltallAY
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I love Diamonds, but it's easily the weakest of the top tracks.

Keep Moving is a must, but Always and Promises are amazing as well.
If that's a "weak" track then I am in for a treat, will check out.
10:03 AM on 04/10/14
#6
Anthony Sorendino
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If that's a "weak" track then I am in for a treat, will check out.
Diamonds is the worst of the best; still good.

Let me know what you think!
10:30 AM on 04/10/14
#7
WeltallAY
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Diamonds is the worst of the best; still good.

Let me know what you think!
Well, let's just say that from this page I went to YT to listen to them and then promptly when to Amazon.com to purchase the album. Looking forward to it, glad you wrote this review for I may never have checked the rest of the album out otherwise.
11:31 AM on 04/10/14
#8
Anthony Sorendino
Don't you dare ever give up...
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Well, let's just say that from this page I went to YT to listen to them and then promptly when to Amazon.com to purchase the album. Looking forward to it, glad you wrote this review for I may never have checked the rest of the album out otherwise.
NICE! Enjoy!
12:20 PM on 04/10/14
#9
WeltallAY
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I will, thanks for the motivation!
05:52 PM on 04/10/14
brentkid
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Great album. Safe House is one of my favorites off this.

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