‘Unforgiving War’ is one of those tracks which has the power to capture a moment of intensity – in this case a couple on a road trip – but communicates it in such a way that it speaks volumes. The song not only conveys movement, but creates it, as we are involved in a journey of the emotions.
This is the new single from Manchester’s We Were Strangers – the work of acclaimed songwriter Stefan Melbourne. ‘Unforgiving War’ opens with the combination of lingering strings and incessant keys creating depth – determined to take us to the emotional core of the situation, and even though at points coming close to quietness, never letting in silence.
The situation of a car journey is therefore set through an immersive soundscape – the vocals initially more prominent in the mix, putting down imagery through emotive lines like ‘morning held us both’ and ‘swelling of a tear’. We share the speaker’s perspective, though as he attempts to talk over his lover, the slow but accumulating progression of bass drum suggests an underlying tension. And then it plunges.
Following the first section of vocal; the rhythm suddenly intensifies and the beat becomes bolder, with a flash of drumstick in there too. Melbourne’s initially tender voice becomes torn, throwing out ‘if this journey is a metaphor’ and ‘pull over’ in a way which is too emotive to be cliché. It’s clever.
The lyrical repetition also invites us to perceive the imagery of the car journey in parallel to that of a lover’s journey, as ‘grab the door’ and ‘grab your arm’ are cast out in succession – all the time increasing the intensity and showing that a single moment between a couple can resonate with us all.
In ‘Unforgiving War’, We Were Strangers capture the turbulence of love. The track fades back into the vocal-heavy format of the opening, methodical in how it places the lines ‘you put your hand on mine’ and ‘flashed a second smile’ linking back to the beginning. Relationships can be turbulent, testing and typically, circular too. As if to illustrate this, Melbourne rhymes off ‘before’ with ‘unforgiving war’ of the title, as if suggesting that in human relationships, we invite ourselves in time-old conflicts, revisiting the same situations in love. It’s a difficult thought, played dearly. Give it a listen.
We Were Strangers can be seen playing the following live dates this November:
November 19th | Leeds, Brudnell Social Club – High and Lonesome Festival
November 28th | Leeds, Brudnell Social Club w/ The Slow Show