Quite out of nowhere, Faithless are back, though with one key difference: Maxi has left the building.
His absence from the record is certainly a conspicuous one, but the decision appears to be mutual, as the former vocalist is thanked in the album's notes for "passing the baton" on to allow the continuation of the act. It's a shame, but nonetheless, it's good to hear the talents of Sister Bliss and Rollo Armstrong come together once again.
They're not exactly back with a bang, however. All Blessed is a very atmospheric record, full of chilled beats, reverby vocals and thought-provoking lyrics by the dozen. Faithless, traditionally a dance music act, have brought us a record that is a mixture of styles, with said dance music being paired with plenty of music that you can lie down to. The result is a well-balanced record that catches the ear nicely, though it won't go down as a classic. Put simply, it's a good album, but not a great one.
The opening trio of songs ('Poetry', 'Gains' and 'I Need Someone') are about as strong as the record gets. 'I Need Someone', in particular, is an excellent track, with guest vocalist Caleb Femi clearly trying to emulate Maxi as closely as he can, and in all fairness does a pretty good job of it too. It does perhaps hint at a band who aren't quite used to being without their regular singer yet, but even so, it's a surprise that this one hasn't been released as a single, as it is a perfect candidate for that type of release.
The dance tracks are interspersed throughout, with 'Synthesizer', 'What Shall I Do?' and 'All Blessed' all encouraging the listener to move their feet to their classic house beats. However, in-between these moments are songs such as 'My Town', 'Walk In My Shoes' and 'Take Your Time', all of which are slower and lack the necessary beats that enable the listener to dance. Instead, these are moments of reflection, of deep thoughts; they're songs to make you think about the world we currently inhabit.
It's important to note that even the dancier tracks are still pretty low-key, certainly when you compare them to Faithless' iconic track, 'Insomnia'. Whereas that song starts in a more atmopheric way and concludes with the famous, hard synth riff, these tracks never get out of 3rd gear, never reach that crashing conclusion. Each song on this album blends into the next, and as well as that works for the album as a whole, there's a feeling that it holds some of the indivual songs back, never allowing them to truly reach their potential.
Still, it's not a bad record by any means and it remains thorougly enjoyable. There's a sense, however, that Faithless are just easing their way back into the groove and still getting used to life after Maxi. Will this record add anything to your life? Not particularly, but it won't bring any harm to it either. It's nice to have Faithless back, and with any luck, this won't be a one-off.
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